Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2).
There lived in an ancient Chinese kingdom wise and amiable king. As he was getting old and sickly, he started to worry about who would succeed him as he had no child. One day, he invites a select group of young men from various locations in the kingdom to the palace. Giving each of them a peculiar seed, he tells them to return to the palace after one year so that he could evaluate who groomed the best plant from his seed and who would succeed him as the king.
After three months Wei, who happens to be among the group, could not see any sign of life from the seed as kept watering it and exposing the plant container to sunlight. Checking on the other young men, he observed that their seeds were growing into magnificent plants, and some were even developing bright flowers.
Wei thought about giving up, but his mon tells him to keep up with watering the seed and hope for the best. Ten months after, Wei did not see any sign of growth, but he would not give up as he continued to water the seed and doing all he could to provide the best conditions for possible germination.
Soon it was the twelfth month and the day of the king’s assessment dawns. Wei stood at a hidden side of the palace watching as other young men arrive with their colorful plants. The king later arrives at the venue and begins to inspect the plants. Coming to Wei, he sees an empty pot and inquires from him what happened. Replying, Wei, almost in tears, tells the king that he did all he could to water the seed and expose it to sunlight, but no success.
After listening to him, the king turns to everyone and pointing to Wei; he says, “Behold your new king. I gave all of you boiled seeds to plant, but he is the only one that planted it, the rest of you exchanged theirs with other seeds. Wei is the only one that qualifies to rule the kingdom after me for his honesty and integrity”.
According to Thomas Jefferson, honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom. Honesty is a virtue that often functions in provoking the minds of the dishonest. In the First Reading (Jeremiah 38:4-6,8-10), the prophet Jeremiah faces push backs from the princes of the kingdom because of his distinguishable honesty and integrity with the word of God. He preferred to die than to conform to the pattern of the time, which involves hiding the truth and telling king Zedekiah all he needed to hear.
The Lord’s Version of Peace vs. the Peace of the World
The Gospel today (Luke 12:49-53) presents a very worrisome situation as our Lord Jesus Christ declares, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing.” In another place he says, “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division…”
One would marvel at these statements as they seem to contradict the mission of our Lord Jesus Christ on earth. The prophecy of Isaiah (9:6) tells us, among other things that Jesus Christ, who is the subject of the oracle, is the Prince of peace. At his birth, the nativity angels sang, “Glory to God on high and peace to people on earth” (Luke 2:14). Rising from the dead and visiting the apostles behind locked doors, the risen Lord greeting says to them twice, “peace be with” (John 20:19-21).
On a more profound reflection, one would discover that there is no contradiction in what our Lord said in the Gospel today compared to the passages on peace we have above. We find the key to understanding the Lord’s version of peace in the Gospel of John (14:27b), “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives”.
From the above, we discover that the peace our Lord Jesus Christ gives is different from that of the world. The peace of the world is all about conformity to what people want and political correctness. The peace of the world is a respecter of ranks and positions like the one the princes wish to Jeremiah to profess.
Moving Forward: Receiving the Lord’s Fire of Division
Lord’s fire will bring division between those who would accept the message and values of the kingdom of God and those who would refrain from receiving them. Our Lord starts his reflection on the potential division arising from the message of the Gospel beginning in the family, which is the basic unit of the society.
The Gospel today invites us to be intentional about where we need to stand like Jeremiah, who took a stand despite the threat to his life. The book of Sirach (2:1) tells us that every decision to serve the Lord would come with readiness for an ordeal. In the Second Reading today (Heb. 12:1-4), the writer tells us to persevere in the race keeping our eyes fixed on our Lord Jesus Christ and like Jeremiah, he can send an Ebed-Melech to rescue us from the pit of destruction.
Like Wei in our opening story, we need to have an honest grip on the truth even when our position is contrary to the rest of the people. Our Lord Jesus Christ is telling us today that we need to swim against the current, and that was what he accomplished for us on the cross. Our faith in God should be able to challenge both family and societal norms. And we always need to make our stand clear.
May God’s supportive grace be with you always as you stand the test of your faith like Jeremiah. Have a beautiful week ahead.