My wife and I have three children, and the last two came 15 months apart. Simon, 8, and Lucy, 7, have grown up as close playmates, but they also know how to push each other’s buttons.
Last week, I heard them playing downstairs, and the tenor of their voices raised as they increasingly disagreed about something. They escalated until something happened—I could hear a brief moment of silence—and then Simon started crying.
As I approached the scene of the crime to negotiate peace terms, I could hear Lucy repeatedly and insistently apologizing to Simon, trying to comfort him. I had to suppress my smile when I reached them—she was trying to hush him before she got in trouble.
She knew that she would face consequences for hurting her brother. She is no dummy, so she tried to work it out with him, hoping for reconciliation, before she faced certain judgment from me.
It was a nice try. Despite her efforts, I had to enforce consequences for her actions.
I think of Lucy when I hear what Jesus is saying to us in this Gospel.
In the passage from yesterday, Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom is a purifying fire. Jesus said, “I came to bring fire to the earth!” We must respond to this intense proclamation with a decision that will change our lives in significant ways.
Jesus further defines this choice in today’s Gospel. The kingdom is among us and we should be able to read its signs as clearly as we can read the weather. We should interpret these signs of the times and orient our lives around the kingdom, Jesus tells us.
“Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?” he asks. If we could judge what is right, we would have the clear thinking of my daughter, and we would do all we could to avoid judgment. We would seek reconciliation, we would ensure we are on good terms with our neighbor, we would have our ducks in a row.
Jesus calls us to action today. Our judgment will rest in the fact that our actions have consequences and much is expected of us.
Josh Noem ’98, ’05MDiv
Share your thoughts about today's reflection here, or send them to the author by email.