Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved.
Last November my brother-in-law, a lawyer, assured me the United States will conduct presidential elections in 2020 and again in 2024. The Constitution is strong, he said, and so is the American people's commitment to the law.
There is a tradition among American ministers, perhaps more Protestant than Catholic, of pessimism about the future. Preachers railed against Abraham Lincoln once they discovered he attended no church and endorsed no denomination. Despite the fury of the Civil War, they concluded, the real threat to the United States was the President's apparent agnosticism.
In defense of my pessimism, I point to the long memory of the Church and the persecutions we have survived. We remember not only the ones against us; we remember the ones we perpetrated! Catholics are reminded by our Sacrament of Penance how fallible we human beings are, and how gullible we can be in the hands of conniving or manipulative demagogues. We usually act impulsively and very often in fear.
The Constitution of the United States is, like a marriage license, made of paper; it can be shredded by indifference and infidelity. We have seen civil liberties cancelled and civil rights deferred when other concerns preempted the piece of paper.
In today's Gospel Jesus describes not the disestablishment of the state but the dismemberment of the family. Many people find it hard to imagine that brother would hand over brother to death, and the father his child but a glance at a history book or news out of Syria assures us these things happen.
Jesus tells us, "Do not be afraid." In today's gospel he says again, "Do not worry about what you are to say...." It's not a matter of if but when. These cycles of violence are ineluctable; hoping they don't happen won't help; preparing for them does.
We pray that we might be daily guided by the Holy Spirit in everything we say and do, for every act becomes historical and contributes to the momentum of where we're going. An angry word, a careless snub or an inappropriate joke may be like the butterfly's wing which stirred up a hurricane.
We need not be anxious or scrupulous but we should be aware/mindful that God whose Presence is the Holy Spirit will guide our reactions, attitudes, thoughts, words and deeds as we make ourselves available to Goodness.