Can you imagine what it must have been like in the early days of the Church when some members of the family converted to the new religion whose disgraced leader had been executed and was said to have come back to life? Can you identify with the frustration and heartbreak experienced by parents who saw their children abandoning family tradition? Can you sense their helplessness as they watched loved ones hunted down, arrested, and tortured to death? Can you blame them for cursing the names of Jesus, Peter and Paul?
For Jesus it was both inevitable and heartbreaking. He knew that some people would actually be killed in and for his name. He wept with those who would not understand and whose mourning would be so agonizing. He also wept for those who would kill in the name of religion; whether in the Circus of Rome, the cells of the Grand Inquisitor or the streets of Ireland and now Jerusalem.
He said that He had come to bring fire to the earth. Not a consuming conflagration, but a cleansing, purifying fire. The fire of Pentecost. The fire that burned within the hearts of the disciples when they spoke of Him and when they celebrated the Eucharist.
It was Jesus' wish that this fire would overcome the fear, the suspicion, the jealousy, the stubbornness and the pride that would poison the atmosphere surrounding the growth of His Church. His Body.
He also said that He had not come to bring peace but rather division! What did He mean by that? Of course He had come to bring peace to the world! He is the Prince of Peace! "Peace" He said, "is my gift to you. A peace the world cannot give is my gift to you." But, as is so poignantly reflected in His clearly expressed frustration, it would be a peace that the world would in fact resent and undermine. An abused, distorted peace which would be, in many instances, divisive. Confusing isn't it?
Mary would have understood. She would have seen through the apparent contradictions in today's Gospel. Perhaps she heard Him say those words. Perhaps she passed them on to Luke. Mary knew about division. Was not Joseph about to leave her because of her embryonic relationship to Jesus?
And as for peace, peace within one's own heart and by extension, in family and society; a peace that was her son's gift to a world hungry for truth and goodness as well as for generosity and forgiveness...well, though contemporary worshippers at the altar of science and rationalism roll their eyes at the thought of her having appeared to various people over the centuries, and though talk of such appearances, even to many modern Catholics, is an embarrassment...one interesting fact emerges which no one should overlook. According to those apparently favoured with her presence, all, without exception, report that she only asks for one thing. That we pray and work for peace!
What Jesus foresaw and dreaded, Mary sees and laments. It would appear that the proverbial ball is, once again, in our court.