Yesterday's Gospel (Luke 12:49-53) is always a bit jarring. Jesus is speaking passionately about the fire he has come to set all over the world--and then he turns to his listeners and asks, almost as an aside: "Do you think I have come to establish peace on earth?"
Considering that at his birth "peace on earth" is just what the angels were singing (see Luke 2:14), this question has got to give us pause. And yet the one born in a manger goes on to say he brings "not peace but division." (Matthew's Jesus says "not peace but a sword.")"From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three..."
Sounds like just about every household in America these days.
Yes, Jesus and his Gospel call for a decision, one that is thorough and firm: "Whoever loves father and mother more than me is not worthy of me" (Mt 10:37). Nowhere, though, does Jesus call for hostility, suspicion, accusation or rash judgment. Not even the very important issues in this electoral cycle (above all the issue of life) justify those sins against charity and justice. Indeed, to fall into them is to love "fatherland and mother country more" and to fail to really respond to the heart of the needs of the present. That seems to be what today's Gospel (Luke 12:54-59) is about. And then St Paul comes in (with the first reading) to interpret just what the "present times" call for: "humility, gentleness, patience, putting up with one another" (!!): revealing an underlying and essential "unity of the spirit through the bond of peace." (More in Ephesians 4:1-6.)
Humility, gentleness, patience, bearing-with: these are virtues society desperately needs in this election year. Paul calls us to live the Gospel in a way "worthy of the call" and that corresponds to the hunger, bewilderment and confusion manifest in the "present time." He invites us to become a new factor in society, kneaded into the culture like a lively leaven.
Just for today, how can we give election talk this new (and unexpected) flavor?