“Truth can cause division, but it's the kind of division that strips away the blindfold layers over our eyes, so we can see the way forward.”
Gospel text (Jn 7:40-53):
Some in the crowd who heard these words of Jesus said,
“This is truly the Prophet.”
Others said, “This is the Christ.”
But others said, “The Christ will not come from Galilee, will he?
Does not Scripture say that the Christ will be of David’s family
and come from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?”
So a division occurred in the crowd because of him.
Some of them even wanted to arrest him,
but no one laid hands on him.
So the guards went to the chief priests and Pharisees,
who asked them, “Why did you not bring him?”
The guards answered, “Never before has anyone spoken like this man.”
So the Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived?
Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him?
But this crowd, which does not know the law, is accursed.”
Nicodemus, one of their members who had come to him earlier, said to them,
“Does our law condemn a man before it first hears him
and finds out what he is doing?”
They answered and said to him,
“You are not from Galilee also, are you?
Look and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”
Then each went to his own house.
The dispute among those who heard the words of Jesus was whether Jesus was the Prophet, the Christ, or the Messiah. This created a division among the believers. The guards were timid to arrest Jesus because they said, “Never before has anyone spoken like this man.” The reaction of the Pharisees was contempt and the reaction of Nicodemus was timid. His heart was telling him to defend Jesus, but his head told him to not take the risk. I feel like this is the battle we play out in our lives daily. When we make decisions do we follow our heart or do we listen to our head? This is a very difficult balance to find, because we want to be smart with our decisions but at the same time follow our passion and listen to God.
In today’s readings we are challenged to take a stand for Christ and for the Gospel. After reading the Gospel I asked myself if I would have had the courage to stand up for Jesus, or if I would have shied away at the risk like Nicodemus?
Jesus Christ is truly a “sign that will be contradicted” as Simon had told Mary (cf. Lk 2:34). Those who listened to Jesus' words did not remain indifferent to them, to the point that, on this occasion, as in many others, «the crowd was divided over Him» (Jn 7:43). The reply of the officers who wanted to arrest the Lord centers the question and shows us the power of Christ's words: «No one ever spoke like this man» (Jn 7:46). It is like saying: His words are different; they are not empty boastful words, full of arrogance and falseness. He is “the Truth” and his way of speaking reflects this reality.
We all have to choose! God does not impose upon us; He offers himself to us. And it is up to us to decide to be for him or not. It is a personal matter each one —with the help of the Holy Spirit— has to solve by himself. Miracles are useless, if man's dispositions are not humility and simplicity. We can see the Jews divided before the same facts. And, this is because in love matters it is not possible to give a half-hearted, half way reply: Christian vocation implies radical response, so radical as the testimony of submission and obedience Christ gave in the Cross.
Today as then, we Christians are —must be— “a sign of contradiction”, because we do not speak and behave like others do. By imitating and following Jesus Christ, we likewise must use “the language of charity and love”, a necessary language that, in fact, we can all understand. As the Holy Father, our Pope Benedict XVI, wrote in his encyclical Deus caritas est, «Love —caritas— will always prove necessary, even in the most just society (...). Whoever wants to eliminate love is preparing to eliminate man as such».