“Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived. The children struggled within her; and she said, ‘If it is to be this way, why do I live?’ So she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said to her, ‘Two nations are in your womb, and two people born of you shall be divided; one shall be stronger than the other, and the elder shall serve the younger’” (Gen. 25:21-23). The firstborn, Esau, red and hairy at birth, grew to become a skillful hunter and a man of the field. Jacob, who gripped the heel of Esau when coming into the world, grew to be a quiet and cunning man, living in tents. Isaac loved Esau; Rebekah loved Jacob. The sons struggled, the parents were pitted between them, a domestic disturbance symbolizing the rise of two nations. God acted, and conflict was nearly promised. Of course, this is perplexing.
“Do not think,” Jesus says, “that I have come to bring peace to the 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 one’s foes will be members of one’s own household” (Matt. 10:34-36). Mary’s Magnificat reveals an even broader social upheaval, and the words of Simeon to her suggests her own inner struggle. “And a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:35). Mary’s fiat was not a single undisturbed consent to providence, but an inner pain she endured in the gaping wound of her maternal love.
The soul, the family, communities, and nations are in conflict. They are not to remain so forever, but divine action causes a kind of provisional sifting, a judgment, a crisis. When the Eternal Word of the Father arrives as the implanted Word for us, the evil one comes to snatch the Word, trouble and persecution cause many to fall away from the Word, the cares of the world and the allure of riches choke the Word. Until these conflicts and dangers are faced, the seed will not find good soil (Matt. 13:19-23).
“There is therefore,” St. Paul says, “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). To whom does he refer when he says those? “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female, for all are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:27-28). While it is true that “the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead” will give life to our “mortal bodies,” this new embodied life is, in a sense, the disintegration of the sinful, false, and narrow life we all live. “Sin-weakened” law rules our unredeemed lives and leads us to death. Christ, on our behalf, deals with sin, bearing all its condemnation until none remains. Jesus Christ brings forth a new, unheard-of humanity.
Jesus is a new start after every conflict is faced, and every dividing wall of hostility falls. In the words of Karl Barth, “The whole realm of humanity is confronted and dissolved.” Beyond the realm of humanity, we find, in Christ, a New Humanity. Vested in Christ, we discover the only real peace we will ever know, a peace reaching all the peoples of the earth.
Look It Up: Read Psalm 65.
Think About It: God is the hope of all the ends of the earth. Open your heart to humanity; feel its conflict and sorrow. Now put on the New Humanity of a new and everlasting peace.