It is natural that we want to experience heaven already. Heaven will be wonderful. Work will no longer be pain. There will be no more illness and no more loneliness. But more so than this, there will be no more division. What does Jesus mean when he says, “I did not come to bring peace on earth but rather division?” How come he doesn’t bring that peace and unity of heaven to us right now?
Everyone knows that to build a house, real work is involved. Wood from the forest must be taken away, cut and changed into boards for building. Metal must be taken from the earth and molded into nails. All of the pieces must be separated and formed according to a new purpose, the purpose of building a house. This is the division Jesus brings. He is calling us away from lives devoted to other things and is forming us for a new purpose.
Everyone knows there is a division that must happen when we give our life to God. Firstly there is a division within ourselves. Our souls begin to strain against our bodies. There will be war within ourselves; there will be division between the desires of the spirit and the desires of the flesh. With God’s help, the soul can become much stronger than the body, and there can be great unity and peace within ourselves on earth.
This division also happens between people. When a person undergoes conversion, it becomes clear that there will be obstacles, division between themselves and the others they used to call friends. No longer will there be such closeness; the things which mean most to the heart, the other will no longer share. The wisdom which one carries within himself now, will be counted as foolishness by the other. This is clear between a parent who is trying to instruct their teenage child in virtue, and the teenager which is rejecting the faith. Parents are called to accept this division. Spouses are called to accept this division. We are all called to stand with Christ apart from sin and hate. Jesus did come to bring peace, but this peace is found within oneself after virtues grow strong and also between people, Christian people and people of good will may live in peace. But with those who intentionally oppose God and goodness, there will be no peace. We will be divided, separated, and they will seek to hurt us.
Those who have decided against God and against goodness do not like us to stand apart because it makes it too clear that they are wrong. This is why Jesus was murdered. He made it too clear that those in power were foolish and even wicked. They had to murder him because they did not want to accept the truth about themselves; that they were on the wrong side of the dividing line between heaven and earth. In the first reading we heard of Jeremiah suffering the same difficulty. The people could not take so great a sign of a truly Godly life. The scripture says that Jeremiah’s example “demoralized all the people.” Living a Christian life will confront those who have rejected goodness; and they will not like it. They will seek to make us fall; they will seek to embarrass and shame us. But we must maintain the Christian witness; as St. Paul said, “we must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus who will lead and perfect our faith.”
We are being taken out of the forests, taken out of the earth; being formed into wood and nails for God’s house. We must allow ourselves to be different; to be living for a new purpose. When people witness the strength of our conviction; some will become enamored and join us, others will seek to destroy. But nothing is stronger than a Christian who is living for God because God’s own strength dwells inside of him. When family members or friends try to control us; when they try tempt us to live apart from God; we will know upon which side of the dividing line we are called to be, that of heaven. Christ came to enable us all to make this choice, and our witness will be salvation not only for ourselves, but for many.