MONDAY HOMILY: The Sword of Discernment
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The sword of Jesus is not a soldier's weapon. Rather, it is the living Gospel; a flaming sword, which refines and purifies the intentions and lives of all who embrace it with faith.
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P>SUGAR LAND, TX (Catholic Online) - Before sending the Apostles out on their first mission to proclaim the Gospel, the Lord spends some time preparing them for what lies ahead. It is a sobering moment. Jesus is a realist, and he doesn't sugarcoat things merely to satisfy a misplaced need for comfort or consolation. Jesus is sending the Apostles into battle, but he is arming them with spiritual weapons.
"Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth," the Lord says. "I have come to bring not peace but the sword" (Matthew 10:34). The sword of Jesus is not a soldier's weapon. Rather, it is the living Gospel; a flaming sword, which refines and purifies the intentions and lives of all who embrace it with faith.
It is a sword of discernment, which separates good from evil, true from false. It is a scythe that clears a straight path among the weeds to point the way to eternal life. Armed with this sword - the divine word of the holy Gospel - the Apostles are sent to till the spiritual soil in the towns and villages of Israel.
The fact that spiritual weapons are necessary for their apostolic tasks underscores the importance of what the Apostles are undertaking. The Christian faith is serious business. Not serious in the sense of lifeless, dour or artificially solemn.
But in the sense of being transformative, live giving, and eternally consequential.
Yes, it's true. How we live the Gospel has consequences for eternal life. That is why Jesus goes on to say,
"Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.
Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Matthew 10:37-39).
Far from displacing our families and friends, discipleship in Christ re-orders our lives so that we can love others more precisely because we love God the most. "The first vocation of the Christian is to follow Jesus" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2232).
This spirit of authentic discipleship is at once demanding and energizing. Jesus requires a great deal of his followers - of us. But that is so that he can give us more than we expect or deserve: a share in his divine life and, one day, eternal happiness with him.
Our culture is so absorbed with self-absorption that it is possible to be unaware of one's own selfishness and blind egoism. Jesus wants to free us from those evils by wielding the sword of his word to slice away the binding cords of self-regard that we become free to love him and follow him.
In the days and years ahead, if our society remains on its present course, we may be required to give a defense of our faith that could lead to impoverishment, imprisonment, suffering and even death. Although we hope these things won't come to pass, we need to be ready - armed with the weapons of spiritual battle - to strengthen us for every eventuality.
In the mean time, let us pray for the grace to grow in faithfulness each day.
At the time of the presentation of the Lord in the Temple, Mary was told, "a sword will pierce through your own soul also" (Luke 2:35). This references Mary's participation in her Son's passion, and also her role as the first disciple, who teaches us how to follow the Lord.
Fr. Stephen B. Reynolds is the Pastor of St. Theresa Catholic Church in Sugar Land, Texas. You are invited to visit them on the Web at: www.SugarLandCatholic.com.
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