Thursday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 476

I have come to set the earth on fire,
and how I wish it were already blazing!
There is a baptism with which I must be baptized,
and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!
Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?
No, I tell you, but rather division.

In less than three weeks the elections will be over and the president-elect will set about assembling a cabinet of secretaries. A new class of senators and congresspersons with their families will scramble for apartments in Washington, while new state senators and representatives will orient themselves to their state capitals. Lawyers will pore over new laws, studying their precise dimensions; judges will prepare to test those laws for their constitutionality. Civil servants will steel themselves for new priorities as appointed positions are filled by new officers.
This is how Americans do revolution. If it can be done peacefully we have perfected the process. We should never take it for granted; there is nothing automatic about the transition of power from one person or party to another. We’re not machines; we are human beings governed by laws, by which we have agreed to live -- so long as we don’t choose something else.

There will always remain a rebellious, refractory element among us that cannot abide any laws; that would set a fire upon the earth. These might be common criminals. They might be the “law-abiding NRA,” prepared to fight to the death to defend their guns. They might be our drug addicts and alcoholics who feel compelled to passively resist authority, who cannot accept direction no matter how well-intentioned. Or they might be liberal persons who perceive injustice and cruelty in the status quo.

Many Catholics oppose abortion in the United States. They cannot support anyone who is perceived to be pro-abortion. To vote contrary to their conscience would be a grave sin. As the nation adopts this “culture of death” these rebellious persons would dismantle the country to save the unborn, the elderly and other vulnerable populations, regardless of the strife and violence that might be unleashed. Other Catholics are less radical. They are willing to live with bad laws and hope they don’t get worse.
I hear in Jesus’ statement his affirmation of this dangerous uncertainty that must remain in human life. Good enough will never be good enough, not even close! The Prince of Peace has come to establish division. He suffers anguish until mercy incinerates every injustice.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

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