Throughout Jesus’ ministry over two thousand years ago, love and reconciliation have always been the main theme of his preaching. He teaches us that we should love our neighbor as ourselves; we should love one another; we should love our enemies, and so forth (Ref Mt 22:39, Jn 13:34, Mt 5:44). If a brother or sister has something against us, we should go and be reconciled with that person before offering a gift to God at the altar (Ref Mt 5:23-24).
But Jesus attributes to himself as the cause of division in this Sunday’s gospel reading (Ignatius Catholic Study Bible P133)! As faithful followers of Christ, we live out the Gospel on earth; we make choices in life that may sometimes seem odd or even contrary to good traditional common-sense values that society considers righteous. For example, a mother’s relentless support and endless forgiveness of her daughter, who over-indulges with shopping, may not be understood or even harshly criticized by her own family. They may not be able to see what the mother sees with her loving maternal eyes that her daughter who is suffering from severe depression is getting some relief from the “shopping therapy” in addition to the other treatment she receives. The family thinks that the mother is exploited by her own daughter; her irrational love would never make the daughter stand on her feet again. Or when I get to know someone who has gotten lost in the pace, demands and challenges of this fast-changing world, I see Jesus in this vulnerable person knocking on my door. My assistance may be seen by others as unwarranted or too generous. I may be ridiculed by own family too. It is not easy for everyone in the family to see eye to eye with each other and appreciate the Christian values of unconditional love and compassion practiced by someone in the family. So tension begins. Rift in the family, community and society develops.
When we grow weary of the challenges we face in this world, St. Paul encourages us in the second reading to look to Jesus who “endured the Cross” and “has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2). Christ is victorious because he looks beyond the Cross to the crown of glory that God the Father has prepared for him (ICSB P434). So we must do the same.
St. Paul sees our life journey as a long distance race and we are the runner. Jesus is at the finish line, waiting to reward us. “A cloud of witnesses” – the faithful departed – are cheering us, showing us that the Church in heaven is actively soliciting the salvation of the pilgrim church on earth (12:1). A wise runner would dispose of whatever that might hinder one’s performance, so we must dispose of those worldly burdens in our life that will jeopardize our chances for winning the eternal prize (ICSB P433).
To move towards the finish line without losing faith on the way, we must therefore “run with perseverance” (12:1), do “the will of God”, and at the end we will “receive what is promised” (10:36).