Summary: A culture obsessed by sensory suggestion refuses to admit categories of transformation. But that is what Jesus Christ intends to do, and we desperately need Him to do it.
Monday of 15th week in course
For Catholics raised on family values, Matthew’s transmission of Jesus’ words today are something shocking. No peace—sword—a man’s foes will be those of his own household: these are profoundly disturbing images. But in the world of Matthew, who wrote for a Palestinian community of former Jews, these words were in some way encouraging. In the years following Pentecost, those children of Abraham who followed the Way of Jesus were adopting a lifestyle and a set of doctrines that conflicted with those of their Jewish relatives. Christians rejected most of the Jewish laws about diet. They stopped making sacrifice in the Temple—the Eucharist as a memorial of the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus replaced all those dead animals. And because the Christian assembly accepted everyone, they found themselves at table with Samaritans and Gentiles. This kind of behavior would tear apart an orthodox Jewish family, so a recollection of Jesus’ words predicting that very phenomenon was part of their coping mechanism—to join the new Christian family, it was necessary in many cases to turn your back on your human family.
Becoming and remaining Christian today is no less revolutionary. Read the conversion stories from the Coming Home network. Accepting the complete call of Christ is not easy. These days, it might involve rejecting your family’s lifestyle, particularly if that lifestyle has embraced non-Christian or bigoted practices. Much of today’s entertainment is total filth, so one who rejects it will be ridiculed as a prude. The radical secular culture is so obsessed with superficial reality that the very notion of sacrifice is seen as outmoded superstition.
A culture obsessed by sensory suggestion refuses to admit categories of transformation. Why? Because if God’s love is so powerful that He can by the words of Christ, in some way bring about His own presence in bread and wine, then He really can transform us weak human beings into images of Christ fit for fellowship with Him and with each other. He really can take a chronic sinner and make her a saint. He really can take a body racked by physical and mental disease and heal the person—temporarily in this life, permanently, in the Resurrection. And if God is that powerful, and full of that much love, then the only proper response is to turn our backs on our sinful and self-destructive habits, habits that we have perversely grown fond of, take up our daily cross, and follow Jesus.
But the faith of the Jews was a faith that taught transformation every time the deliverance from Egypt was commemorated, in the Sabbath and especially at Pentecost and Passover. Exodus tells us that the Hebrews were transformed from welcome guests into slaves not long after the death of Joseph. They were so treated by the Egyptians for hundreds of years, but proliferated in such a manner that they were outbreeding the natives. Pharaoh then made his people, when they saw a newborn Jewish child, kill it if it was male—a lot like Planned Parenthood and other professional abortionists do today, but especially if it is a sex or race unpreferred by the culture, or might have some kind of unwanted characteristic. Then, as we see this week in our OT readings, God intervened and transformed the slaves into a pilgrim people dedicated to His worship.
So the power of God is ready to work at any time, especially if we ask in faith. I invite you today as you take communion to ask your God to transform you into an image of Jesus, because our world desperately needs more men and women ready to live a committed Christian life.