- The Washington Times - Monday, August 20, 2001

Excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Edward C. Hathaway at St. John Catholic Church in McLean.

At first glance, we may be shocked by our Lord's words in today's gospel from St. Luke [12:49-53].

The Prince of Peace, who said "blessed are the peacemakers" and after whom we say "peace of Christ be with you," now declares: "Do you think I have come to establish peace in the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division."
Does Jesus contradict Himself? It may seem so. But clearly, He is instead presenting us with two different kinds of peace of this world, and of God's kingdom.
The peace of the world is simply the absence of conflict at any price. It is not wedded to the truth and is tolerant of evil, evil from within ourselves and from without. It is the "peace" of sloth and fear of discomfort.
It is the type of peace between nations that are indifferent to one another, or between family members who don't have disagreements because they don't speak to one another.
The peace of the kingdom of God, however, is the "tranquiltas ordinis," or tranquility of order — the harmony within the soul of one living in a right relationship with God. A peace born of integrity, united with the truth and in the pursuit of good.
This is a peace which the world cannot give and a peace which comes at the price of struggles, for seeking to imitate Christ in holiness will be opposed.
In the Old Testament, we are given the example of the prophet Jeremiah [38: 4-10], who was thrown into a cistern for speaking the truth without regard for human respect.
When service to God is taken seriously, it does not offer a comfortable and tranquil life, but often exposes us to risk, struggle and persecution.
Heroic figures such as Jeremiah are but weak precursors of Christ, whom all Christians are called to emulate. He is the supreme fighter for God's cause — enduring the baptism of His passion and cross so that the world might be saved from sin and death.
The Christian martyrs died in imitation of Christ, refusing to deny their faith or sacrifice to the gods of state.
We too must be strong in our dedication to the truth — without compromise. The truth that premarital sex is always an evil and is never an act of love, for it can never be an act of love to commit a sin with someone.
The truth that marriage is indissoluble, ending only at death, and the truth that life begins at the moment of conception. Our steadfastness to these positions may indeed lead to division in the culture where we live.
Following Christ in pursuit of holiness may even lead to division in families, which are the foundation of unity in society. Sons or daughters who have experienced the opposition of parents in pursuing a vocation to the priesthood or religious life have great patrons in two doctors of the Church, St. Catherine of Siena and St. Thomas Aquinas.
Catherine was the youngest of 23 children, and her parents hoped she would make a good marriage. Her mother encouraged her to look more attractive so that she could catch a good husband.
Catherine decided God wanted to dedicate her life to Christ as a consecrated virgin, so in defiance she cut off her hair, her most beautiful feature.
Her parents were so angry that they made her a servant in the household, doing most menial tasks.
Later, Catherine continued to be courageous in responding to the Holy Spirit as she told the pope to return to Rome from Avignon.
St. Thomas Aquinas' family put him in prison and attempted to seduce him with a prostitute, so much did they oppose his vocation.
He went on to become not only a great priest, but the greatest theologian of our Catholic faith.
St. Paul encourages us to "persevere in running the race that lies before us, while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith."
May Jesus in the Eucharist strengthen us in living the truth, and Our Lady, Queen of Peace, intercede for us.

Next week: a sermon at a D.C. congregation.


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