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Peace or Division: Did Jesus Contradict Himself?

The same Jesus who said, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” also proclaimed this in Sunday’s Gospel reading:

Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?
No, I tell you, but rather division. (Luke 12:51)

Did Jesus contradict himself?

During this month’s Meet the Master session at Pilgrim Center of Hope, I addressed this head-on with our participants. There are many instances in Scripture, even in the Gospel and the words of Jesus, where contradictions seem apparent. As mature Christians on our pilgrim journey, we need to learn how to wrestle with these questions rather than avoid them or write them off using trite statements.

Who Is This Jesus?

To avoid answering our main question from a particular point of view or agenda, we need to look at the entire context: the person of Jesus, his life, his words, his actions. That is why the Gospel is essential reading for us. As St. Jerome said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”

Let’s fine-tune our original question, Did Jesus contradict himself? by looking at these seeming contradictions.

Jesus As A Peacemaker

Did Jesus wish peace upon others?

  • He taught his disciples to wish peace to those they met. “As you enter a house, wish it peace.” (Matthew 10:12)
  • Those whom Jesus healed, he sent away in peace. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.” (Mark 5:34)
  • As Jesus appeared to the disciples after his Resurrection, he greeted them with peace. He stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” (Luke 24:36)

Let’s look deeper into the meaning of “peacemaker.” For the Hebrews, this was a “pursuer of peace” like Aaron, who during conflicts would sit with each party individually. Aaron would speak with and listen to each individual until all bitterness was removed from each one’s heart. Finally, the parties once-at-odds would embrace and be reconciled. (cf. Rabbi Hillel, Avot) To be a pursuer of peace means to foster reconciliation.

Was Jesus a pursuer of peace?

  • He and his disciples shared meals with those in society who were despised. While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. (Matthew 9:10)
  • He accepted invitations from not only the despised, sick, and desperate, but also the leaders & revered members of society. (ex. Luke 7)
  • Jesus forgave people of their sins, and taught his disciples that they should forgive perfectly and without exception. (cf. Matthew 18:22)

By all of the above, it is clear that Jesus did bring peace – and Christians throughout time attest to his continued peacemaking throughout history and in the world today.

Jesus As A Source of Division

However, our original question considers Jesus’ assertion that he came to bring division (symbolized by “the sword” in Matthew 10:34).

Jesus “did not come to establish peace upon the earth” because, contrary to popular hopes at the time, he did not come as the mighty Messiah expected to end all war. Rather, Jesus himself became a cause for division.

  • When Jesus healed and forgave sins, he was often criticized by the religious leaders. (ex. Matthew 9)
  • When Jesus tended to the despised members of society, he received similar criticism. (ex. Luke 15:1-2)
  • For having revealed himself as the Son of God, religious leaders had Jesus condemned to death. (cf. John 5:18)

Jesus’ pursuit of peace and reconciliation thus brought conflict and division among those persons who would not accept it. While he desires God’s peace to be with all, the Prince of Peace causes controversy.

How Can We Truly Be At Peace?

As Jesus’ followers, how can we be truly and sincerely “at peace”, while division takes place all around us? As we strive to reconcile people with each other, with themselves, and with God, we will experience joy tinged with discomfort and desolation. Not everyone is ready to accept the radical message of peace and reconciliation that Jesus brings. We have all been there once; preferring control and security as the Pharisees and scribes did.

Instead, Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection shows us that the way to perfection is vulnerability and self-giving love. Jesus did not contradict himself, but he tells us the truth while subverting his listeners’ expectations.

As Pope Francis says, For Christians, (holiness) involves a constant & healthy unease (Gaudete et Exsultate, no. 99). Let’s reflect on this while Our Lord’s words echo in our hearts:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. (John 14:27)


Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life.

Angela Sealana is Media Coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope, having served at the apostolate for nearly 10 years. She also serves on the PCH Speaker Team.

What Effect Does the Lord’s Prayer Have?

What is prayer and why should we pray? We saw in Sunday’s Gospel that even Jesus, the Son of God, spent time in prayer. When his disciples ask him to teach them to pray, Jesus teaches them what we call the Lord’s Prayer. Here in the gospel according to Luke, we have an abbreviation of the prayer we are familiar with from Matthew – the prayer we pray together at every Mass and many other times throughout the day.

Are we really aware of the importance of what we are saying and of the far-reaching effects of this prayer?

Jesus tells us to pray: “Father, hallowed be thy name”

Prayer is first of all a relationship with Our Father in heaven who loves us, is interested in our good, and is near to us. He is the Father of all humanity, but especially of us who have been baptized and call ourselves his children. We are not praying to an unknown god who is far away from us. When we say hallowed be thy name, we are acknowledging that God is holy, almighty; the creator of all things and we are his lowly creatures. We should praise God every day throughout the day for his benevolence. He is our Father now and for all eternity, and he wants a personal, intimate relationship with each of us, so that we may know his goodness and experience his goodness.

“…your kingdom come”

In the prayer we are familiar with from Matthew, we add, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

The Kingdom of God is at hand when we do the will of God. God has a great plan for humanity, and has revealed that plan through the Scriptures and the Church. We reach our potential for happiness in this life when we discover the specific plan God has for each of us by asking for his help every day in prayer and by keeping the commandments he has given us to guide us in the right direction.

“Give us each day our daily bread…”

Whether we are aware of it or not, we are dependent upon God even for our next breath. It is God who keeps everything in existence. Everything we have is a gift from Him and He expects us to be good stewards of what we have received. When we are concerned about what we need ,we should first turn to God. In the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus tells us:

“Do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat? Or what are we to drink, or what are we to wear? All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But first seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.”

When we place God first in our lives, he will help us make good decisions about what we really need.

God provides our daily bread par excellence in the Bread of Life; Jesus Christ himself, body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Holy Eucharist. What more do we need than God himself? He is the source and summit of our lives.

“…and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive anyone in debt to us”

Forgiveness is essential for our spiritual, mental, and physical well being. There is no offense that may be committed against us that we should not forgive; unforgiveness, bitterness, resentment, hatred, etc., are all obstacles to the love of God. They enslave us to a life of misery – even to the point of affecting our physical health. If there is something we have not been able forgive, we can begin by asking God for the grace to desire to forgive because he commands us do so. He will liberate us from our enslavement.

In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Jesus Christ himself forgives our sins through the priest and gives us the grace to make progress in our spiritual life. If we want to deepen our faith, we should participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation once a month for the reason that we need the help that our Lord wants to give us through this sacrament.

“…and do not subject us to the final test.”

Our whole life is a process of purification. The closer we are to God through our worship, prayer, and sacramental life, the more aware we will be of how close he is to us in the challenges and difficulties that come our way. If we ask, God will give us the grace we need for every circumstance of our life. No matter how bad we have it on the worst day of our life, there will always be someone who has it worse and yet is still able to experience peace & joy – because of their faith and trust in God.

God’s Promise & Our Persistence

Jesus follows with a parable about the necessity of persistence in prayer; “I tell you, if he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him what ever he needs because of his persistence.”

We also must be persistent. Saint Monica prayed for her son Augustine’s conversion for sixteen years. Her perseverance was not only instrumental in her son becoming a great saint; it was also instrumental in Monica becoming a saint.

If we persevere in prayer, we can be confident that it will be answered. It may be answered in the way we hoped it would be, or we may discover that God has a different plan, more consistent with the coming of His kingdom.

This Gospel closes with a promise; “… how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” If we ask, seek, knock and persevere, the Lord will send us the Holy Spirit to help us know his will – so that we remain close to him and be happy now and for all eternity. It’s a promise.


Deacon Tom Fox, K.H.S. is Co-Founder & Co-Director of Pilgrim Center of Hope with his wife, Mary Jane Fox. The two left their careers after a profound conversion experience and began working full-time in ministry at their parish in 1986. After several years and having impacted tens of thousands of families, the Foxes founded Pilgrim Center of Hope in 1993 as a response to the Church’s call for a New Evangelization. Deacon Tom is an invested member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre.

Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. See what’s happening & let us journey with you! Visit PilgrimCenterOfHope.org.

What Does It Cost to Be Free? My Experience of Forgiveness

During a Holy Land pilgrimage, I saw a beautiful bush full of soft leaves, red berries and tiny white flowers. Our guide called it Spina Christi. She explains that when dried, the supple branches become sharp thorns. It is this plant which was weaved into the Crown of Thorns and pressed into the head of our Lord Jesus Christ, causing his blood to flow.

In contemplating why God would create this plant knowing its ultimate purpose in his Passion, I realized it is because he desires for his Precious Blood to be poured out for our salvation. He says at the Last Supper, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you” (Luke 22:20).

It is important to know that Jesus was totally in charge of all that was happening to him. In the Gospel of John (10:17-18) we read, “I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again.”

In God’s Justice, he deemed what is the cost for our salvation. God fulfilled his justice in the Passion and Death of his own son, Jesus Christ. God paid the price himself, “By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).

Spend time contemplating the Passion, and our only adequate response is gratitude. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “The human heart is converted by looking upon him whom our sins have pierced” (no. 1432).

To be set free costs you nothing… to remain free, costs your all.

I encountered Jesus a year following my tubal ligation. I knew when I said yes to this sterilization procedure that it was in opposition to Church teaching, but I was never taught why… nor did I seek to find out.

A merciful encounter with our Lord returned me to the Catholic faith. It was a slow process receiving the grace of forgiveness, as I blamed everyone for my sin but myself. I even blamed God for letting me fall. In the gentle care of the Holy Spirit, I eventually accepted responsibility. In confessing through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I found consolation. However, I harbored a resentment towards the priests who had not properly catechized me. The fault of my sin is mine, but I do not carry this burden alone.

During the pilgrimage, we visited the Sacred Pit into which Jesus was thrown on the night of his arrest. It is carved from rock and is deep at the bottom of a hole that extends from where Jesus was questioned and beaten before the high priest, Caiaphas (Matthew 26:57).

From inside the Sacred Pit, you can hear voices above. I imagine Jesus listening to his high priest (John 11:50-51) condemn Him. I think about His New Covenant priests, the Apostles, who at that time are fleeing, denying and betraying Him. In my hands is the Crown of Thorns. This is a grace of wonder given through the pilgrimage experience. I understand in it that God is acknowledging the injustice of His priests done to me; an injustice He shares.

In that moment of wonder, Jesus looks at me. He wills me to place the Crown of Thorns on his head so he can shed his blood; the price for our salvation which includes those who have trespassed against me.

This is a costly moment. It requires my all.

His gaze brings tears of sorrow, joy and a profound understanding. I know that I cannot stop Jesus from shedding his blood for sinners, but I can stop being the source of his suffering through my failure to forgive. In gratitude to our merciful our God, I pray, “I will to forgive them all, Lord.”  Note this is not a feeling… it is a free-will choice and has required of me multiple offerings.

To my unexpected delight, I soon discover a transformation which can best be described as freedom. This freedom has a divine power that has brought me continual healing, a growing compassion for others, a constant peace, and a closer relationship with God. It is this freedom that Saint Pope John Paul II writes in his encyclical, Dives In Misericordia (Rich in Mercy),

“Forgiveness demonstrates the presence in the world of the love which is more powerful that sin. Forgiveness is also the fundamental condition for reconciliation, not only in the relationship of God with man, but also in relationships between people.”

It is the same as our Lord promised on the Mount of Beatitudes; “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7).


Nan Balfour is a grateful Catholic whose greatest desire is to make our Lord Jesus more loved. She seeks to accomplish this through her vocation to womanhood, marriage, motherhood and as a writer, speaker and events coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope

Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. See what’s happening & let us journey with you! Visit PilgrimCenterOfHope.org.

How Can I Possibly Make A Difference?

Life can be overwhelming, especially when we consider all the problems in the world, in our country, our state, city, neighborhood, family, and our own selves.

Most of us do not have vast circles of influence, nor huge sums of money to fund solutions to the giant questions and tough issues of our time. We’re people who work, are retired, handicapped, sick… So, how in the world can we reconcile our daily lives with Jesus’ bold prophecy?

Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12)

Especially in the United States, we tend to maintain an attitude of “taking things on” and “tackling” them ourselves. However, as our Pilgrim Center of Hope chaplain reminded us at Mass this past Friday, we are not alone! When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we don’t say, “My Father who art in heaven…” Each of us is a member of a family; of the Body of Christ.

Examples of Hope

Driving home this reality is a long list of people who lived in almost complete obscurity, and are now saints who are celebrated worldwide.

This year, our staff has been teaching each other about a different holy woman or man. Among them is Blessed Charles de Foucauld, who was inspired by Jesus’ life of obscurity in Nazareth. Although he lived as a hermit in the Middle East, there are still communities of people who have been inspired to follow his example of simplicity.

Another saint we have met is André Bessette, who lived in Canada filling ‘hidden’ positions such as doorkeeper, laundry worker, and sacristan. Yet, his relationship with God was so obvious to those who encountered him, that his prayers were greatly sought-after. Even during his humble life on earth, many miracles were attributed to his prayerful intercession.

Although we may think that we cannot make a difference in the people or situations of our lives, we can look to the saints and to the Gospel for reminders of the truth. You are an important member of the Body of Christ. Ask God to invite others into the lives or situations that you feel you cannot impact alone. As long as we strive to follow Jesus, uniting ourselves with the entire Church as the Body of Christ, God’s grace will change the world far beyond what we could imagine.

Let’s strive to live each day of our lives with hope.


Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life.

Angela Sealana is Media Coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope, having served at the apostolate for nearly 10 years.

Finding Peace In Our Times

How can we find peace in our times?

Let’s start by looking at Sunday’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, which shows us the first council of the Church, the Council of Jerusalem, resolving a conflict that was disturbing the peace of the early Christians.

Jewish converts to Christianity were expecting that Gentile converts should undergo circumcision and abide by the same guidelines that were fundamental to the Jewish faith. This Council marks the first time that a collective decision was made for the faith community which was not confirmed by Mosaic Law or the Jewish Scriptures, but rather on the authority given by Christ to the Church. The Apostles said, “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities, namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriages.” Thus, the Council relieved the new converts of those burdens.

Church Councils: Working for Unity & Peace

Did you know that, through the centuries, the Church has similarly convened councils to define matters of faith which affect our practice of the faith today? For example, the Church formulated a set of beliefs called the Nicene Creed which we recite at every Sunday Mass, during the Council of Nicea in the year 325.

Also at that time, many written letters and texts were circulating among the Christian community and used during gatherings for prayer and liturgy. At the Council of Nicea, the Church decided which of these scriptures were the inspired Word of God.

The latest council (the Second Vatican Council or “Vatican II”), was convened at the Vatican to bring new life into the Church. In spite of the holiness of many people, others had fallen into living as a “Church of routine.”

I was a freshman in college when changes happened. One Sunday, the celebration of the Mass was as usual; but the next Sunday, my local church implemented the Vatican II changes. The altar was moved with the priest facing the congregation, and the Mass was in English instead of Latin. The main reason for these changes was the Council members’ hope that every Catholic would be more formed in their faith and influenced by it—instead of expecting that the priests and religious should have the main responsibility of living out the Word of God. The Council was especially directed to the lay faithful and our personal responsibility to live and share the faith as a response to our baptism. Other documents would follow, such as “On Evangelization in the Modern World,” which is a beautiful directive on how the entire Church is expected to live and share the faith. It was a directive that is still waiting to be fulfilled.

Experiencing True Peace In Our Lives

This Sunday’s Gospel could be a brief explanation of why Vatican II was necessary. Jesus says,

Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and, we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.

Each of us is personally responsible to live our lives in communion with God. No one can love God for us and no one can keep his word for us. Even though we are sustained by the unconditional love of God, our personal experience of that love depends on two things: Loving God above all else and keeping his Word.

It is natural for us to want to relate to God on our own terms, but it is impossible for a relationship to happen that way. God has revealed a plan that will bring purpose and happiness to our lives; we see how this plan works in the lives of the saints. Still, somehow we think there may be a different plan for us that won’t require such a commitment. However, if that were so, God would be untrue to himself.

The world we live in does not offer us the peace that gives rest to our soul. That peace is found in a personal relationship with God who is the source of all love and everything that is good. If we want to know how to love God and experience the peace that Jesus offers, we should:

  1. Decide to believe what God has revealed to us. Seek to understand God’s revelation to us through the Church and the Scriptures.
  2. Ask for the grace to do what you know is right, but often find difficult to do. Ask for the grace to forgive people who have hurt you deeply. Hatred, bitterness, stubbornness, resentment and jealousy are a few of the sins that are obstacles to experiencing the love of God and the peace he offers us.
  3. Remain close to God by participating in the sacraments. Almighty God, who wants us to call him Father, knows us better than we know ourselves. For this reason, our Heavenly Father has given us the Church and her sacraments as the means to make grace available to us. If we want to love God, we will then want to be reconciled to God and to others through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We all sin and need the help of God’s grace to overcome temptation and grow in virtue. We will want to worship Our Lord during the holy sacrifice of the Mass and receive the precious Body and Blood of Jesus in Holy Communion and spend time with him in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.

When we remain close to Our Lord in this way, God will help us to experience true love and peace in every circumstance—even the most difficult trial, because Our Father is true to his word.


Deacon Tom Fox, K.H.S. is Co-Founder & Co-Director of Pilgrim Center of Hope with his wife, Mary Jane Fox. The two left their careers after a profound conversion experience and began working full-time in ministry at their parish in 1986. After several years and having impacted tens of thousands of families, the Foxes founded Pilgrim Center of Hope in 1993 as a response to the Church’s call for a New Evangelization. Deacon Tom is an invested member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre.

Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. See what’s happening & let us journey with you! Visit PilgrimCenterOfHope.org.

Padre Pio in the Year of Mercy

During the Year of Mercy, we hosted Fr. Patrick A. Martin who leads the Padre Pio Prayer Group at the Shrine of St. Padre Pio in San Antonio, Texas, to speak about St. Pio of Pietrelcina and the mercy of God.

 

An Examination of Conscience

An Examination of Conscience Booklet

“An Examination of Conscience: A Preparation for the Sacrament of Confession” by Fr. Robert Altier (Booklet)

This booklet is softcover, small enough for a man’s pocket or woman’s purse, and includes:

  • “Why should I confess my sins to a man?”
  • “The loss of the sense of sin”
  • “Forgiveness of sin”
  • “How to go to Confession”
  • Prayer before and after Confession
  • Examination of Conscience
  • Mortal Sins & Venial Sins
  • Imperfections

You can obtain copies of this booklet by calling the Pilgrim Center of Hope: 210-521-3377.  Please offer a donation to the Pilgrim Center of Hope to cover costs.