Today we honour the memory of Saint John Paul II, whom we all knew and some of us had met. Without doubt Pope John Paul’s teaching and example led many to faith. His exceptional apostolic zeal, particularly for families, young people and the sick, led him to numerous pastoral visits throughout the world. Among the many fruits which he has left as a heritage to the Church are above all his rich Magisterium and the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church as well as the Code of Canon Law. He was canonized by Pope Francis in 2014 and his feast falls on the anniversary of his election to the papacy. History will remember him as one of the great popes of our time, if not of all time. Today we ask his intercession and protection for the Church.
“Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” We call Jesus the Prince of Peace and we tell the world that he came to bring reconciliation and not division. Then why does Our Lord tell his disciples something that sounds altogether different?
Our Lord wasn’t saying that he was on a mission of division and disintegration. Rather, he was describing a natural consequence of his coming. He knew that not everyone would accept the Good News and that this rejection could cause conflicts. So he wanted to warn his disciples ahead of time, so that they wouldn’t become disillusioned or frustrated when the inevitable divisions did occur.
Our Lord also wanted to make it clear that the coming of the Messiah didn’t mean instant and universal peace. A new age has dawned but it isn’t the final age of harmony and tranquillity that we all long for. We live in the age of the Church, an era marked by the ongoing struggle between light and darkness that we all know so well.
It’s important for us to realise that divisions over issues of faith and morality will happen on their own. God isn’t asking us to become confrontational zealots. He doesn’t want us preaching a gospel of harsh condemnation to those who disagree with us. Rather, he wants us to try our best to respond to his call in our lives. And if our words or our witness causes conflicts, then he wants us to learn how to lighten up, refine our approach, and look for another opportunity to share the Gospel in a less argumentative way. In bad times as well as good, we need to be openhearted to everyone we meet, sowing seeds of the love that God has poured into our hearts.
We need to remember that not all divisions have to be permanent. St. Paul tells us that the kingdom of God is a matter of “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit”. If we can keep this promise in the forefront of our minds, we just might be able to overcome divisions and help someone invite God into his or her life.