Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom! Listen to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah! What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.
When you come to appear before me, who asked this from your hand? Trample my courts no more; bringing offerings is futile; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and calling of convocation – I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity. Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them. When you stretch ot your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.
Jesus said, "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one's foes will be members of one's own household.
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up he cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
"Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet's reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple — truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward."
Isaiah make a loud, prophetic protest against injustice. Today's Gospel concludes Jesus' instructions to those he sends to spread his message in the world. We hear, implicitly from Isaiah, explicitly in the gospel, that following the will of God can be hard, even disruptive of peace between people. Jesus sums it up dramatically when he says he is to spread not peace, but division. The text of Matthew reads grimly, "not peace but the sword"; Luke blunted this from "sword" to "division" (Luke 12:51). Some painful divisions are inevitable in life. We may remember Simeon's words to Mary as she held the infant Jesus in her arms: "This child is destined to be .. a sign that will be opposed" (Luke 2:34).
In Isaiah the sword of division is raised by social injustice, and by family disputes according to Jesus' words. We may wonder why the prophet and then Jesus felt the need to threaten the peace. The religious scene in Isaiah's time seemed so perfectly observant that one could easily have ignored the injustices committed by the rich aganist the poor. Yet God's anger blazes out in the words of the prophet: "Your new moons and festivals I detest; they weigh me down, I tire of the load.. Though you pray the more, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood." But God always gives his people another chance; instead of a death sentenced, Israel is granted a reprieve, – only provided they take justice seriously, redress the wronged, hear the orphan's plea, defend the widow. Unless their religion turns towards social justice, God will turn his hand against them, and "refine your dross in the furnace" (Isa 1:25). For Isaiah, what God desires is peace with justice.
In the gospel the problems come from the family circle. Again it is not peace at any price, but peace with a sincere resolve to follow Jesus. If the sword strikes within family relationships, it is not being wielded for personal ambition but for the sake of conscience. However, the sword never brings a clear moral solution, especially amid social, racial or family disputes. We are summoned to be sincere and strong, to be willing to suffer and bear the cross, to be humble and lowly, to be men and women of trust in Jesus.