Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the man who humbles himself will be exalted.
Humble behaviour is the mark of the Christian, as it always was the mark of someone “in favour with the Lord.” In the Gospel, we see Jesus watching the Pharisees: it’s almost amusing to picture them shuffling for the best places, the polite “After you!” to put themselves in a better position. How would they have reacted to his teaching? They may well have remembered the passage we read from the Old Testament, and realised that Jesus was teaching the teachers something they should be well aware of.
It’s probably a nightmare we all share to some degree or other - being locked out of the house, the sales, the big match, or missing the train, the boat or plane. Contemplating watching the crowds that have got inside, while we can do nothing, can be unnerving. Complacency can leave us in this situation: today the Lord warns all who listen to him to be careful, taking nothing for granted, but making sure that we are (spiritually at least) like the people waiting with their sleeping bags and thermos flasks by the front door of the ticket office.
I am not here to bring peace, but rather division
When we consider the Christian life, we often think in positive terms: peace, light, joy, goodness, life. And yet, as the Scriptures remind us today, that Christian life must be lived in the midst of a world which is filled with more negative terms: division, distress, cruelty and death. The words of the Gospel may appear shocking to us: Jesus says that he comes to bring “division, not peace”, and this seems totally contrary to the message of the Gospel! And yet, Jesus is not announcing his desire – of course he wants peace, not division – but showing his understanding of the world in which we live. He is inviting us to weigh up the cost of the Kingdom, a cost he was willing to embrace: as the second reading tells us: “… Jesus, for the sake of the joy which was still in the future, endured the cross…” Whatever weighs us down, let us endure and persevere, so that the fire of God’s love may blaze over the whole earth!
You too must stand ready.
Vigilance: we wait for glory or ruin, salvation or disaster. This is the choice that faces the Christian each and every day, as we wait for the Lord to return, as he promised he would. We often live our lives leaving such things to a distant, shadowy future - like the person who is going to fix that faulty lock or window-frame, but in the end doesnt get round to it before the burglar comes. The lamps of our lives should be lit and shining, filled to the brim with the oil of prayer and charity, singing the hymns of the fathers as we wait for the Master to return.
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ALL SAINTS CHURCH
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