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Our faith must be public

Mary Jo Tully
Chancellor, Archdiocese of Portland


Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10
Hebrews 12:1-4
Luke 12:49-53

Carol was baptized at this year’s Easter Vigil. She was delighted and determined to be as involved in her parish as possible. During the RCIA, she was amazed at the camaraderie that existed among believers. Indeed they seemed of one mind and one heart. Now almost six months later, she is just as amazed at the division she sees in the world and in the Church.

It’s not surprising that the secular world sees the followers of Jesus as threatening. There was a time when all of us were cautioned that two topics were not suitable for polite conversation…religion and politics but we know that religion isn’t private. It is a way of life and enters into all that we do. If we live this way of life, we will sometimes encounter conflict. What we believe will offend others. Some will object to our stand on behalf of human life. They will object to our fight against abortion and euthanasia. They will have problems with our care for the poor and the vulnerable. It is even more problematic that other Christians will disagree with what we see as Gospel realities.

In today’s Gospel story, Jesus has begun his journey to Jerusalem where he will die. As he travels, there is opposition and conflict and Jesus begins to prepare his followers for the realization that he could be killed. He speaks of that conflict and of his death as a “baptism with which I must be baptized.” He reminds us that following him will divide communities and even families. These divisions are most painful when both sides believe that they are faithfully following Jesus.

The foundation of peace is relationship. Tolerance and acceptance are built on that relationship. Division is what diversity becomes once human pride and sin become part of the equation. Diversity is a gift. Loving others means loving them in their diversity

When speaking of vision and values, we cannot take the route of the king in the First Reading. We cannot agree with everyone. Such behavior makes a sham of peace. Like the author of the epistle, we are surrounded by a “cloud of witnesses.” The world looks to us for signs of faith. The unique individuals who form the Church form our witness. Each of us is called to ask hard questions—questions that might well cause us to “grow despondent or abandon the struggle.”

Today we pray for the grace of fidelity to the vision of the Lord whom we have chosen to follow.
At this Eucharist, we are asked to “set the earth on fire.” A large part of our society sees Church as an enemy! If we do not uphold the truth the Church proclaims, divisions are created and conflicts result.



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