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God’s Battle for Souls
Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot
Jesus said to his Apostles: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s enemies will be those of his household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is righteous will receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple—amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.” When Jesus finished giving these commands to his Twelve disciples, he went away from that place to teach and to preach in their towns.
Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, I praise you for continuing to proclaim your Good News to me. Thank you for calling me closer to the heart of the Father. I am sorry for all the times I fail to come because of my sinfulness. Holy Spirit, grant me the grace to be made worthy to receive and give Jesus to my family and to all my brothers and sisters in the world.
- Not Peace but the Sword: Doesn’t it seem odd that Jesus, our source of all peace and unity, preached, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword […]?” Centuries of persecutions by foreign nations caused the Jewish people to consider anyone outside their covenantal faith as enemies. Jesus was cutting through this limited understanding to remind them of the promise God made to Abraham, “For my part, here is my covenant with you (Abraham): you are to become the father of a multitude of nations” (Genesis 17:4). The “sword” Jesus wields is his word, “[…] living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart (Hebrews 4:12),” slicing through their cultural self-protection to reveal the promise of Scripture now fulfilled in him: God, through his chosen people, is the Father of all people.
- Becoming Worthy: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.” Jesus spoke to his disciples about taking up their cross and suffering well before he took up his own cross, so that when it was their turn, they would remember that he had gone first. Suffering is a consequence of mankind’s sinfulness and was not the original plan of God for his children. Jesus entered into our suffering to divinize it, giving it merit and redeeming each of us. Jesus made what was not good, very good, and as Christians we gratefully follow him by enduring any suffering we encounter for his glory. “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
- A Prophet’s Reward: “Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is righteous will receive a righteous man’s reward.” Jesus is calling everyone into his Church and explaining there is a role for each of us. This calling is a gift, a privilege, and a great responsibility. The reward for receiving the gifts of righteousness (to be holy) and the prophets (special gifts called charisms), and in turn giving these gifts to others like “a cup of cold water,” is nothing less than his Kingdom, “as he chose (for) us in him, before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). “It is not only through the sacramentals and the ministries that the Holy Spirit makes the people holy, leads them, and enriches them with his virtues. Allotting his gifts ‘at will to each individual,’ [the Spirit] also distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank” (Lumen Gentium 12).
Conversing with Christ: Lord, you call me to life in you, and you give me all I need through your grace to live out this call. You still desire to go out and preach the Good News. Let me go with you.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will “wield the sword of Christ” by sharing Scripture with one or more members of my family as prompted by the Holy Spirit.
For Further Reflection: Tools for Building a Domestic Church, USCCB.org.
Nan Balfour is an events coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope, a Catholic Evangelization Ministry that answers Christ’s call by guiding people to encounter him so as to live in hope as pilgrims in daily life. She is also a mother, writer, and speaker on Catholic topics.