Sometimes the words of scripture are hard to understand. Do you remember the story of St. Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch in the Book of Acts? Philip heard the eunuch reading a passage from Isaiah along the road so Philip asked him “Do you understand what you are reading?” But the man replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” Read the whole story in Acts 8:26-40.
The fact is we will not reach the level of spiritual maturity God knows we can reach by ourselves. We were meant for community and for communion. But the enemy of our souls wants to keep us from communion so he works extra long hours blowing on the embers of resentment, misunderstanding, and the desire for revenge. In this way he keeps us locked in the smallness of our singular minds.
But the Faith teaches us that we are called to community. We are called to do the hard work of communion and relationships. It is in this hard work that we discover spiritual treasures given to us by the Holy Spirit for our salvation.
Today’s Gospel lesson is a perfect example. Listen to the words of our Lord Jesus: “Every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household.” St. Matthew 10:32-36.
But I thought Jesus was the Prince of Peace? Didn’t the Lord promise us His “peace that passes understanding?” What is this that Jesus says about bringing a sword?
Hard words indeed. In fact, by ourselves, cut off from the wisdom of the Spirit preserved in the Church for 20 centuries we may be tempted to start our own group based on our own “wisdom” about these hard words. But that would be playing into the enemy’s hands.
No, let us abandon the short-sighted path of forever splitting the witness of the Body of Christ into ever multiplying groups and let us learn the wisdom of the timeless Faith.
Notice our Lord begins these hard words with a statement of reality: If we acknowledge Him before the world, He will acknowledge us before the Father. If we don’t, then He won’t. Then He mentions the reality check about His wisdom and truth. The fact is we all face times when our loyalty to Christ will set us against those who simply don’t understand why we pay the price we pay to be loyal to Jesus and His eternal Church. Jesus isn’t saying He will cause the divisions as much as He is simply revealing what will exist when men and women choose, out of their love for Christ, to prioritize their faith in Christ above all other temporary comforts.
And this has surely happend through the centuries. Believers and even the whole Church have, at times, been driven underground because they refused to be silent about their devotion to Christ above all others.
Today, is your spiritual maturity at a level where your loyalty to the Faith embodied by Jesus Christ trumps all other loyalties in your life? Perhaps you are ready to make the choice to grow to that place in your own life. If you are, then you are already on your way to being Orthodox on Purpose.