When was the last time you had an argument with your family? And — you don’t need to answer this, either — what were you arguing about?
The sad reality is that we fight the most with the people we love the most. And it’s usually over something we think is important. We want to get our point across. Money. Parents. Grand kids. Tuition. Doctors. Moving back home. Moving out. These things matter to us.
In the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Albus Dumbledore said this: “It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies, but a great deal more to stand up to your friends.” And, as we know from our own experience, even our families.
Now, in case you haven’t seen the movies or read the books, Dumbledoor is the Hogwart’s headmaster. He’s a source of wisdom in the Harry Potter series. And while most of J.K. Rowling’s characters are caught up in the emotion of immediate things, Dumbledore sees life from a broader perspective. Being 150 years old will do that.
Likewise in today’s Gospel, Jesus sees the broader perspective. He not only acknowledges that disagreements happen, but He almost guarantees that we will fight about God, about religion, about the Church. The same way a respectful teenager will fight with their parents as they figure out what they believe in the world.
That’s an inconvenient truth we may know too well. That’s not always easy for us to hear.
As Martin Luther King Jr has said, “Jesus is not an impractical idealist; he is the practical realist.” He knows what it means to be human. He knows the struggles, He knows the challenges, He knows how difficult it can be to hold on to what you believe in.
Now, you might ask, I thought Jesus was the ‘Prince of Peace’? I thought he was against fighting?
Well, He is. But the reality of the early Church was this: if you decided to tell your family you were thinking about becoming a Christian, it meant you were deciding to break the law. And, in the first 300 years of the Church, your whole family could get arrested, beaten, tortured — or even worse. Even if you weren’t a Christian, but your brother or sister was. Guilt by association.
You’d pay a price for your belief in God. But so would your family.
Jeremiah is taking a risk in our first reading. He’s telling the telling soldiers that the city of Jerusalem was doomed. God was punishing them. Resistance was futile. They might have a better shot at being allowed to repent if they just surrendered. Which all turned out to be true… And for his boldness, he was thrown into a cistern, a hole, the ancient form of solitary confinement.
His faith almost cost him his life.
Just like Jeremiah, Jesus is telling us the truth about what will happen. There’s no sugar coating, no pulling any punches.
He knows people. He knows that when we get fired up about something, when we believe, we might make some people mad. You might start a fight. Like when you are opposed to a political policy or party, and get accused of being unpatriotic. Or if you challenge something in your workplace, you might be labeled uncooperative. Or if you disagree with your family or your friends, you might be ignored.
It’s like that with Christ. He’s reminding us today to consider what we are most passionate about. It’s as if He’s asking us the question: When was the last time we had an argument with someone about God? When were we willing to take a stand, even against those who perhaps we love so much?
So let us be encouraged by today’s readings. Jesus knows it’s only through your on-going strength, your courage, your persistence and your passionate arguments that the world will change. Your good efforts will be rewarded, even if you feel dejected, alone or frustrated. Always remember how inspirational your life truly is. No one ever promised you a rose garden following Jesus. Most especially Him!
Let me finish with a quote from Billy Graham, who perhaps gave us one of the best reasons why we need to keep up the good fight…
“We are the Bibles the world is reading; We are the creeds the world is needing; We are the sermons the world is heeding.”