XX Sunday in Ordinary Time 18/19. 08. 2007
Introduction: “I have come to set the earth on fire” says Jesus in today’s Gospel. The fire is Jesus Christ’s own passion and love. But there is a question: “Is my faith also a fire of passion and love of God or only a simple, effortless custom, trouble-free routine or maybe a search for a comfortable Christianity?”
At the beginning of this Eucharistic Celebration we have to recognize that very often we search this kind of “relaxed Catholicism”.
• Lord Jesus, you came to set the earth on fire, Lord, have mercy
• Christ Jesus, you are the ultimate revelation of God, Christ, have mercy
• Lord Jesus, you didn’t search for comfort but you were searching the truth, Lord, have mercy
May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and brig us to everlasting life. Amen.
Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10; Psalm 40: 2-4, 18; Hebrews 12:1-4; St. Luke 12: 49-53
Jeremiah had been called to be a prophet from his mother's womb. He was the prophet at the Kings court. He should have been held with the deepest respect. But he refused to butter up the king by just telling the king what he and the people wanted to hear. Because Jeremiah stood for the truth, he was berated and mocked. In today's reading he was thrown into a cistern where he would have died if the King had not stood up against his own counselors and saved Jeremiah's life. Jeremiah's life should have been wonderful, beautiful, full of honor. But being true to the Word of God resulted in his being treated with contempt.
The persecution which Jeremiah experienced was something that afflicted all the prophets due to their determination to stand up for God's word, to stand for what was right and good and true, no matter what others would say about them or do to them.
Grounded in reality, our faith tells us that it is difficult to stand for what is right and true. It is difficult to stand for the Lord because we will be persecuted and mocked. Sometimes even by our own family, or members of the same community. Because what the contemporary world is searching for, is not the truth but the comfort and easiness and freedom without truth.
This is what Jesus did. He stood for the truth and was put to death. But he was not going to compromise the Word of the Father. If this meant denouncing the leaders of the Temple, he would do so. If this meant criticizing his closest followers, he would do so. If this meant journeying to Jerusalem where he knew he would die, he would do so.
It is in this context that we can understand the difficult gospel for this Sunday. The grim things predicted. The strife and the sword that the Lord's presence in the world will instill, results from the truth we try to stand for.
Consider the young people of our parish those who refuse to go along with the drinking and drugs, how they will be mocked and ridiculed.
Consider the parents of our parish. They will be criticized for setting moral standards within their homes. Perhaps even their own children will tell them that they need to get real and allow them to go along with what everyone else's parents allow them to do, and what is in reality just contemporary immorality. Many of the parents of our parish will have to put up a terrible struggle to stand for what is right and true in their own homes, with their own children. But living for the Lord is worth the struggle.
The readings for today are clear and grounded in reality. Life is full of challenges and struggles. And the greatest of these challenges are rooted in our standing for what is right and true, standing for God. But each challenge met, each crisis overcome, forms each of us into more loving people. And this is the fire Jesus is talking about I today’s Gospel.
JESUS MAKES two important statements in today's Gospel.
a. "I have come to bring fire on the earth."
This is not the fire of destruction, the fire that ravages rain forests every year.It is the fire of heat and light.t is the fire that cleanses and purifies.
It is the fire of God's presence, as in the burning bush that Moses saw, as in the pillar of fire that accompanied the Israelites in the desert, as in the tongues of fire at Pentecost where the bringing of fire was mandated to the disciples, to the Church, to all of us.
As a purifying fire it can also bring pain and purification but it ultimately leads to conversion and liberation.
"I have come not to bring peace but division." This is a statement that critics of religion would cynically agree with. Religion is seen by many as a major source of division, suffering, and war in our world. In our own times we have only to look at the Middle East (Jews and Muslims), the former Yugoslavia (Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims), India (Hindus and Muslims and Christians), Northern Ireland (Catholics and Protestants).
But to others it is a very puzzling, even alarming, statement. It seems to contradict the whole message of the Gospel. At the Last Supper Jesus told his disciples that he was giving them peace, a peace that the world could not give, a peace that no one could take away from them. We call Jesus the Prince of Peace. In the Beatitudes we read, "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God". They especially are the ones who do the work of God - and of Jesus. In the letter to the Ephesians, Jesus is called our peace, breaking down the walls that divide peoples. "By this will all know that you are my disciples, that you have love one for another." In the contemporary world we are living this kind of division because of the Truth which is Jesus Christ. Should we thus, search rather for a comfortable and relaxed Christianity, to be politically correct?