“Ask a Priest: How Can Jesus Both Give Rest and Divide Families?”

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Q: Please explain two quotes by Jesus that seem to conflict with each other. Beginning at Luke 12:51, Jesus says, “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? I tell you, no, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three.” What does this mean? It would seem that he would come here to unite. Elsewhere he says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me. … For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” I find these two passages conflict with each other. – Eugene

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: The Church teaches that we always need to read a biblical passage within the whole context of Scripture. Otherwise, we run the risk of interpreting something in a narrow, absolutist way.

These statements of Jesus aren’t in conflict; rather, they are different facets of his basic message.

One way we could reconcile them is this:

When we follow Jesus, we will indeed find “rest for our souls.” If we take up the cross he gives us, we will have it relatively easy, since he will give us a tailor-made grace that enables us to carry that particular cross.

Not everyone will follow Jesus, however. They will reject him and his teaching. They might doubt the Church that teaches in his name. Some of these people might be members of our own families.

This is where Jesus can cause division within families. Our individual soul might be at rest, but that doesn’t mean we will see eye-to-eye with all our relatives on moral issues.

In other words, opposition from the world won’t necessarily take away our peace of soul. Hence, conflict within families can co-exist with peace in ourselves.

We will be at peace with ourselves because we will be at peace with the One who matters the most.

People who reject or ignore Jesus’ teaching for the sake of “family peace” will not really bring peace to the home. At best it will be a false peace, since to ignore Jesus is to ignore the truth about the world and ourselves and our mission in the world.


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