Are we to become peacemakers, or not? The reading for Mass today casts doubt on our project. Matthew 10:34 presents deeply disturbing words spoken by Jesus: “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
At first glance this appears to signal we should cease peacemaking efforts and sharpen our swords. Perhaps our natural human instinct to fight is correct – we simply need to learn to fight better. Should we set Taming the Wolf aside and pick up our swords?
The passage from Matthew continues its disturbing theme:
35 For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. 37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.”
Harsh words. It seems we face a “you are with me or against me” choice that forces us to choose sides in a battle. This is not what we had in mind with conflict resolution concepts that champion collaboration resulting in reconciliation and brotherly love. Was our work premature? Misguided? Did we go forth with a warm-and-fuzzy image of Jesus only to discover we were misinformed? Maybe not.
Another passage requires our attention: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. [John 14:27]” We pause and reflect on the phrase “not as the world gives…” It supplies a discernment key with which we can unlock the mystery.
The peacemaking model Christ provides transcends the mundane. It has a mystical nature. It gains power from mystical union with Christ. “He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.” Enduring peace is only possible, we discover, when we move beyond worldly means and make our way on the basis of supernatural grace.
When we read both Matthew 10 and John 14, we learn Jesus points to a way not of the world. Thus, today’s Gospel reading takes on new meaning. Peace will not come through worldly means, but rather through faith-based reconciliation. The Taming the Wolf path we have chosen, which includes Franciscan contemplative prayer leading to mystical union with Christ, makes more not less sense. We understand more deeply the Taming the Wolf definition of mediation: “The art of restoring harmony by seeking unity in the presence of the Holy Spirit.”