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Tension with loved ones: Face or flee?


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Fr. Luigi Maria Epicoco - published on 10/20/22

We must ask ourselves whether tensions are generative or destructive - whether we face them and become more ourselves, or whether we refuse to face them for the sake of a false peace.
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Today’s readings can be found here. Read Fr. Epicoco’s brief reflections on the daily Mass readings, Monday through Saturday, here. For Sunday Mass reading commentary from Fr. Rytel-Andrianik, see here.

The words Jesus uses in today’s Gospel could be easily misunderstood. Yet Jesus speaks them to foment not religious fundamentalism, but rather a passion for life that is very often unknown to unhappy people. When he says, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” he’s not referring to a fire of war, or of destruction, but to that fire which the disciples of Emmaus felt burning within their hearts when they spoke with the Risen Jesus himself. After recognizing him, they asked themselves, “Did not our hearts burn in our breasts when he conversed with us?”

A teacher who has fire inside speaks with words that kindle fire. Parents who are passionate about their lives ignite passion in their children. A Christian who burns with life, transmits full life to others. This is the fire Jesus is talking about. 

But then he continues:

“Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

The division Jesus is talking about is the tension that comes when everyone is fully themselves. In fact, crises can only arise between living people, and the crisis He is talking about generates life; conflict, on the other hand, is a degeneration of it. 

Therefore, we should not be afraid of the tensions that are created even in the most intimate relationships, but we must ask ourselves whether they are generative or destructive; that is, whether we face them and thus become more ourselves, or whether we refuse to face them for the sake of a false peace. Is this not why a son clashes with his father? Is this not why a daughter-in-law clashes with her mother-in-law? It’s the crisis of those who want to be themselves and not the embodiment other people’s expectations.


Father Luigi Maria Epicoco is a priest of the Aquila Diocese and teaches Philosophy at the Pontifical Lateran University and at the ISSR ‘Fides et ratio,’ Aquila. He dedicates himself to preaching, especially for the formation of laity and religious, giving conferences, retreats and days of recollection. He has authored numerous books and articles. Since 2021, he has served as the Ecclesiastical Assistant in the Vatican Dicastery for Communication and columnist for the Vatican’s daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.

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