Fr Jordan presided and preached at the 10am Mass. Our Gospel reading was taken from Matthew 10: 24–-39.
Read on for the sermon and a video of the service.
You know with all the civil unrest, political corruption, class divides, drug smuggling, gang wars, police brutality, gun violence, and poor education maybe building a wall to divide us from our southern neighbors isn't such a bad idea - Canada
Bad jokes aside there is no doubt division is increasing in our world and society.
The church is not immune either. Many Christians see the Gospel either as merely a path to prosperity with the idea that God just wants to make us wealthy and happy. And on the other extreme we have many Christians who have abandoned faith and replaced it with purely social justice. I see people entrapped by the “-isms”—racism, sexism, ageism, classism, and so many others—that divide our church, choosing first to obey and revere these divisive systems rather than the God who has called us to be reconciled to one another and to be one in Christ Jesus.
Perhaps people today aren’t declaring their allegiance quite as bluntly as they did in the past, but as we look at our society and even our churches, we cannot deny that they are divided by ethnicity, class, and age. We surround ourselves with people who are like us and value like-mindedness over genuine love and care for our neighbor.
The divisions between us seem to becoming starker.
And the way that things are going they seem to be irresolvable. New tensions between various groups keep erupting. Sometimes it’s all out war. On other occasions it’s attacking each other online. Disruption seems to be the goal. The news we get keeps reminding us that it is often the innocent who suffer.
And all this does is create more division which ultimately leads us to fear.
There are many people now who live in fear. With some justification fear is a reality for many. This fear is what drives people apart and tries to destroy harmony in our societies.
How then can we hear such a gospel without wondering what Jesus meant? “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.”? Surely it is natural to fear those who kill the body. Fear is a very important human emotion.
Fear is a strange emotion. It is necessary for it stops us doing foolish things. Fear of being burnt prevents us from touching hot things. Fear of falling prevents us from going too close to the edge of a cliff. But fear can also stop us from doing good things. Fear of not knowing what to do can stop us helping someone. Fear of the unknown can prevent us from taking a step which may prove to be to our advantage. Sometimes our fears are more imagined than real. One of the ways fears can lose their power is when we talk about them. But we can also be afraid to talk about our fears for fear of appearing foolish.
But when we face our fears, when we talk about our fears, we can use them to motivate us into action. Fear is a very necessary emotion, but an emotion we do well to recognise for what it is, and deal with it.
It is interesting that here, and in other parts of the gospels, Jesus always contrasts fear with faith. Doubt is not the opposite of faith, fear is. The fear Jesus speaks about is the fear which is not yet able to trust God. None of us are in the position of being able to trust God completely. So when we are afraid, this is a chance to ask ourselves what it would be like if the fear was taken away. How would this situation be if I did trust God? We may still not be able to trust entirely, but we start the process of working through our fears to allow the development of faith.
But equally If we have faith, it doesn’t mean all our fears disappear. As I said fear can be a good emotion to have and it is necessary to prevent disaster happening. But sometimes our fears are unfounded. Bringing faith to our fear means that we may be able to transform the fear into effective action. Fears are real and not to be ignored. It’s what they do to us that can cause the problems. When they paralyse us and prevent action, then we need to question what our fears are doing.
In the particular passage we read this morning we do well to remember that Jesus is giving instructions to his disciples. He tells them that following him will not be easy. There will be divisions brought about by the gospel, Confrontation is unavoidable. A gospel that bothers no one and questions nothing is no longer the gospel.
And it is quite likely that the community for which Matthew wrote had experienced such family divisions and that some followers had even been turned out of their families and communities. As Christianity grew among the Jewish population they were inevitably ostracised and pushed out from that community. Hence the emphasis on division.
There is much debate on this passage among scholars to which words were actually spoken by Jesus. If we recognise and accept that the community to which Matthew belonged were facing direct persecution and division than one can accept that this would have been an emphasis in his writing. However it doesn’t completely explain away the uncomfortable phrase of Jesus ‘do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.’ But it may at least shed some light.
For Jesus’ coming calls forth decisions every day of our lives as to whom we will serve. A person’s family could well become a road block if familial love seeks to replace the love of Christ.
Even the disciple who wished to go and bury his father is told to let the dead bury their own dead (Matthew 8:21). Following Jesus takes priority even over the filial responsibility of burying one’s father. Inherent in the command to follow him is a requirement of unwavering loyalty. The claims of the gospel can and will unfortunately split families and cause division.
And in some sense, we do this ourselves. Figuratively speaking, at some time in our lives we cut off those we do not like; those we find difficult; those who irritate us; those who disturb us. We separate them from our company; we put barriers up so they can’t belong. We ignore their needs and hope the people will go away. These are the ways we cut off certain people.
Of course, sometimes the tables are turned and we are the ones on the outer, we are the ones others are trying to cut off. That’s when we want to retaliate. We find ways of hitting back, returning evil for evil, or holding a grudge against the perpetrators of this unkindness towards us. It seems that is a human condition. It seems to be where much of the conflict of our world lies. The difficulty is how to change the need to retaliate into a constructive way of bringing about justice so relationships can be restored.
We are dealing with subjects well beyond our capacity to change on a world level. But maybe we can do something on the local level. Our own conflicts may need resolution. Our own wish to retaliate may need to be withheld. Our own fears may need to be faced up to. When we do that then we are starting the process of allowing our faith to have an effect in our living. Yes, fear of those who kill is natural. Self protection is normal. But some fears are better dealt with to allow us to have the sort of relationships God asks of us. Healing our own conflicts is the place to start. Who knows what wider effect this may have when we are willing to follow the way of Christ.