TRUE PEACE THAT LEADS TO ETERNAL LIFE!
First Reading: Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10; Second Reading: Hebrews 12:1-4; Gospel: Luke 12:49-53
In our world today, almost everybody dislikes an atmosphere that is chaotic or saturated with tension. Everybody knows that peace is far more desirable, and to be preferred to division. But what kind of peace should we promote, which reflects our true identity as Christians?
Unfortunately, bad people, or those we may consider as outlaws, usually get infuriated or feel uncomfortable whenever their lifestyles are being challenged by those who stand for truth, justice, equity and fairness.
The first reading gives us the example of Prophet Jeremiah, a man whom God entrusted with the responsibility of proclaiming His message (hard truth) to the nation without fear or fervor, especially that which goes against the wishes of the king and wicked people. Consequently, He was attacked and persecuted by some disgruntled elements in Judah who conspired against him, and wanted to put him to death, because His life (utterances and character) was challenging their atrocious and wicked acts. But God was at his side and freed him. Similarly, anybody who becomes a true announcer of the word of God will be persecuted too.
In Gospel, Jesus Christ made a shocking statement while addressing His disciples: “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were burning already!” and then He adds: “Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division” (Luke 12:49-51).
Astonishingly, since the scripture tells us that Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), then what does He mean by such seemingly provocative statement? The above statement is one of the paradoxical statements of Jesus Christ: “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake, and for the of the gospel, will save it” (Mark 8:35); “…whoever wants to be great among you, must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all”(Mark 10:43-44); etc.; which many people find very difficult to comprehend.
However, Jesus’ statements are not in any way contradictory, rather they complement one another in order to reveal a fuller picture of truth. Certainly, Christ did not come to bring peace at all costs, which compromises or violates what I may call, the Fundamental Principles of Human Life that God upholds. Hence, His own Peace is based on the principles of love, truth, justice, equity and fairness. Unfortunately, many people in our contemporary society can easily compromise (lie, cheat, deceive, kill, betray, etc.) these principles as long as they can get what they want, and have their peace of mind.
Sadly, one of the reasons why our society continues to remain in quagmire and also in moral decadence is, because some good people, or even (We) the religious leaders are afraid of speaking the truth or standing for true love, justice, equity and fairness; for fear of being rejected, persecuted or killed. Worse still, we allow things to go wrong sometimes, because of material gains. But, should we compromise these fundamental principles so as to avoid altercations, persecutions, or death?
There is no doubt that, those who always stand for the truth are vulnerable to all kinds of persecutions and attacks. However, a true disciple of Jesus Christ will never compromise his or her Christian faith, but will always stand for these fundamental principles of human life (love, truth, justice, equity and fairness) just as the second reading tells us; to live a righteous life worthy of emulation.
Undoubtedly, such an attitude will definitely earn the disciple opposition or division from the majority. If such a person maintains his or her stand, then he or she will be hated, maligned, attacked, persecuted, and be killed, sometimes by his or her own kith and kin (friends and relatives). But at the end will be vindicated, and thus, gains eternal life (Romans 8:31-37).
For those who were crowned martyrs today chose to be true disciples of Jesus Christ by standing for what they believed in, and by upholding the fundamental principles of the Christian faith or human life without any compromise. Yes, they paid the ultimate price by so doing, and today we honour them as martyrs whose exemplary lives are worthy of emulation. Whereas those who compromised the aforementioned fundamental principles are not even remembered at all, except with ignominy or scorn.
According to Martin Luther King, Jnr.: “True peace is not merely the absence of tension; rather it is the presence of justice.” If there is no tension, there wouldn’t be positive peace. For him, peace should not be an obnoxious one that is boiled down to stagnant complicity and deadening passivity. If peace means keeping our mouths shut in the midst of injustice and evil; being complacently adjusted to a deadening status quo, willingness to be exploited economically, dominated politically, humiliated and segregated; then, that is not true peace at all. Hence, they must be revolted in a passive non-violent manner.
Finally, Truth is life and fire! It burns, and makes people uncomfortable, as well as engenders division. Even though some people claim that truth is relative. Nevertheless, we must not be afraid of division caused by the Word of God, especially when we truly and courageously stand for love, truth, justice, equity and fairness. Neither should we compromise our faith or become sycophants in order to gain peoples admiration or approval. For it takes the Power of the Holy Spirit in order to courageously proclaim the Gospel truth undiluted.
Therefore, let us always stand out for truth, justice, equity and fairness without fearing whose ox is gored; without any prejudice, and without compromise of our Christian faith. Moreover, our critiques or corrections should be done with fraternal love.
Also, since nobody is perfect, but striving for perfection, we must not be infuriated whenever we are corrected for making mistakes. That doesn’t mean we are really bad or wicked, even though some people do not want to change their wicked lifestyles. But, we should accept corrections in good faith, and strive to improve to the glory of God. So, let us continue to promote the True Peace that leads to eternal life.
May the Holy Spirit strengthen you so as to always uphold the fundamental principles of human life without fear or fervor, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Peace of Christ be with you…
Rev. Fr. Ben Okala, C.S.Sp.