When there is Division because of Jesus we take a stand for Jesus

Homily for the Twentieth Sunday of Year C

by Fr. Tommy Lane

The Cardinal of Paris, Jean-Marie Lustiger, (this homily was preached before he died in 2007) has a most interesting story to tell. He was born a Jew in 1926 to a Polish family living in Paris and running a store. His first name was Aaron. His family considered any Jew who converted to Catholicism an abomination. Although there was a lot of anti-Semitism he was well aware that many Christians were not anti-Semites. His best friend in school was a Christian. When war between France and Germany was threatening during the Second World War his parents decided for his safety to send him to a Catholic family in Orléans south of Paris. The Catholic family hosting him did not try to convert him but their example inspired him as did also the churches in Orléans which he visited merely out of curiosity at first. When he read a Catholic Bible he was very impressed by how the Old Testament continued into the New Testament and the links between the suffering Messiah and suffering Israel. On Holy Thursday he visited the Cathedral in Orléans but did not know what was being celebrated there. He returned the next day, Good Friday. The Cathedral was empty and he experienced that emptiness also. There and then he decided that he wanted to be baptized. Just before the German invasion of France in 1940 he told his parents he wanted to be baptized a Catholic. Cardinal Lustiger says

“it was an unbearably painful scene when he told his parents. He explained that he was not abandoning being a Jew but discovering its real meaning. His parents did not understand and he suffered greatly from their pain. He took the step only because he felt it was absolutely necessary for his soul. Finally his parents, after having brought him to a rabbi to whom he explained why he thought Christ was the Messiah, consented not only for Aaron but also for his sister, who wanted to follow her brother…” (Bread From Heaven edited by Ronda Chervin, published by Remnant of Israel © 1994 page 54.)

During the persecution of the Jews in France his father left Paris to look for a place elsewhere for the family. Unfortunately his mother was denounced as Jewish by a neighbor and sent to Auschwitz where she was killed.

The Lustiger family is an example of a family being divided because of Jesus. This is precisely what Jesus meant in the Gospel today when he said he came not to bring peace but division (Luke 12:51). Why on earth would Jesus say that he came not to bring peace but division? There are times when we have to stand up for Jesus and be counted but there may also be others who will not stand up for Jesus and be counted and so division results. No one wants or likes division. We would all prefer unity but when some people have found Jesus and are changed, like Aaron Lustiger, they can no longer live as they used to. Others who have not yet found Jesus do not understand and ridicule and insult those who have. There is pain involved in division, the one who has found Jesus is changed and no longer follows the status quo and may be ridiculed. This could happen in any family. It is happening in schools all over the country, students mocking other students because they go to Mass.

Since the faith and morals of this country have sunk so low it is necessary now more than ever to stand up for Jesus even if it causes division. All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. (That saying is attributed to Edmund Burke born in Dublin in 1729 but so far it has not been found in his writings.) Remember what Jesus said on another occasion, “If anyone openly declares himself for me in the presence of men, the Son of Man will declare himself for him in the presence of God’s angels. But the man who disowns me in the presence of men will be disowned in the presence of God’s angels.” (Luke 12:8-9) Jesus himself suffered because of the division concerning him. It cost Jesus his very life to bring about the kingdom of God. That was the baptism he had to undergo in today’s Gospel (Luke 12:50). In the first reading it also cost Jeremiah the prophet. He was thrown into the well (Jer 38:4-6). When young people go to Mass now it costs them, the mockery of their peers. But let us be courageous. The Letter to the Hebrews which we heard today encouraged its listeners to stand firm in following Jesus, taking example from his sufferings,

Let us not lose sight of Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection: for the sake of the joy which was still in the future, he endured the cross, disregarding the shamefulness of it...(Heb 12:2)

Think of the way he stood such opposition from sinners and then you will not give up for want of courage. In the fight against sin, you have not yet had to keep fighting to the point of death. (Heb 12:3-4)

Do not be embarrassed to admit that you follow Jesus, that you go to Mass. So what if your reputation suffers! It is the ones who mock who really are the weak ones, and they are weak and mock because they have not found Jesus. Pray for them that they may come to know Jesus. They have nothing to lose and everything to gain by finding Jesus. Aaron Lustiger, later Cardinal Lustiger, said it was absolutely necessary for his soul that he convert from Judaism to Catholicism. It is absolutely necessary for us to follow Jesus. As the Letter to the Hebrews says,

Let us not lose sight of Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection: for the sake of the joy which was still in the future, he endured the cross, disregarding the shamefulness of it...(Heb 12:2)

Think of the way he stood such opposition from sinners and then you will not give up for want of courage. In the fight against sin, you have not yet had to keep fighting to the point of death. (Heb 12:3-4)

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

This homily was delivered when I was engaged in parish ministry in Ireland before joining the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

More homilies for the Twentieth Sunday Year C

Bringing Fire to the Earth