By Sarah Cornwell
A Reading from the Gospel of Matthew 10:34-42
34 ”Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
35 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;
36 and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.
37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
40 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple — truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”
In today’s Gospel from St. Matthew, Jesus announces that he has not come to bring peace, but a sword. This seems to be an odd statement coming from the one known as the Prince of Peace.
St. John Chrysostom understood the sword to be like a surgeon’s knife. Jesus has come to cut away the evil that has metastasized like a cancer in our world. And Jesus’ message sounds about as comforting as a cancer diagnosis. No one wants to hear that an evil has taken hold inside and must be removed before it spreads and kills the rest of the body. It’s especially jarring news if you feel relatively fine. From the outside, the body appears at peace, but inside there is a growing sickness that must be cut out.
In order to be the Prince of Peace, Jesus must be the Great Physician. If Jesus did not come with a sword, the only peace we would have would be a temporary one. It would be the kind of peace many of us experience today. We are not engaged in outright war with our neighbors, but just underneath the surface lurks animosity, resentment, and even rage. If our doctor asks, we may confess to a family history of this sort of sickness, a history of sin built into our very DNA. On the surface, we may not be killing each other, but the ills of our society are eating us like a cancer, killing us from the inside out. How could we possibly have peace without major surgery?
So often we put off our regular doctor visits. Perhaps it’s time to make that appointment with our Great Physician and allow him to examine us, and see if there is not something that must be cut out of our lives for the preservation of our body as well as his body — and do it before the need — and the surgery required — becomes drastic.
Sarah Cornwell is a laywoman and an associate of the Eastern Province of the Community of St. Mary. She and her husband have six children and they live in the Hudson Valley north of New York City.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
St. Paul’s Bloor Street, Toronto, Ont.
The Diocese of Glasgow & Galloway (Scottish Episcopal Church)