Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time August 14, 2017
Reading 1 Jer 38:4-6, 8-10
Responsorial Psalm Ps 40:2, 3, 4, 18
- (14b) Lord, come to my aid! Reading 2 Heb 12:1-4
Alleluia Jn 10:27
- Alleluia, alleluia. My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord; I know them, and they follow me. Gospel Lk 12:49-53
Homily— August 13 & 14, 2016
The gospel begins with Jesus telling the disciples, “I have come to set the earth on fire”. It is indeed an interesting gospel that challenges our imagination. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary states “The nature of Jesus’ message is to purify and to cause people to distinguish dross from the genuine product.” When you are buying something you do not want to buy a fake item but the real thing whatever that may be. When you encounter people you want them to be truthful and genuine with you. Jesus wants his disciples to be true followers of his who truly strive to live faith. Judas Iscariot would be example of someone who was not genuine with the Lord.
Jesus states that “there is a baptism with which He must be baptized”. This has the metaphorical meaning of being overwhelmed by catastrophe. In obedience to God’s will Jesus goes on his journey to Jerusalem and wishes it was over! This is like facing some kind of major surgery and wishing it was over or maybe coming to the end of our life and putting all of our hope and trust in God.
John Martens in America magazine writes about the first reading for today that “the prophet Jeremiah felt the scorn of those who sought comfort, not God’s truth, because he spoke of God’s irrevocable judgment on Jerusalem. The officials of the king decided instead to make Jeremiah’s death inevitable, and they threw him into the cistern intending for him to die there.” Cisterns were used to collect rain water and were bottle shaped and there was no way out after one was put into the bottom of a cistern unless someone would lower a rope and help them out. Jeremiah found that speaking the truth of God and following the truth of God does not always lead to sweetness and light. The truth is not always nice, for us or for others. We are hardly called like Jeremiah to announce to the Israelites that their beloved Jerusalem will fall into the hands of the Babylonians—nor are we thrown into a cistern to die! Nor like Jesus will we be nailed to a cross because of our preaching. Nevertheless, we are called to be faithful to God’s word in the small, everyday things as well as at times when the more serious challenges come along. We do not seek division, but we do seek consistency in living Gospel values. We do not seek anguish, but we do suffer with Christ when it comes. The closer we come to Christ, the hotter the fire becomes! The very way we live our lives is Gospel fire. Sometimes strife and division are a sign of our faithful commitment. Gospel living is not always easy!
Pope Benedict XVI writes that the fire is Christ’s own Passion of love, “a fire that is to be handed on. Whoever comes close to him must be prepared to be burned. This is a fire that makes things bright and pure and free and grand. Being a Christian, then, is daring to entrust oneself to this burning fire.” The fire is set ablaze when we speak the truth, like the prophet Jeremiah, who is punished for it. “The message of the Church is there precisely in order to conflict with our behavior, to tear man out of his life of lies and to bring clarity and truth. Truth makes demands, and it also burns.” Christ comes to divide us from whatever divides us from him. We keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.
I have enjoyed watching some of the Olympics. I have enjoyed watching both the gymnastic and the swimming events. The crowds are there giving support to the athletes and the athletes get fired up to do their best. The second reading reminds us that “we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses”. We are to “rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus”. Won’t it be great if we could see the crowd in heaven looking down upon us and cheering for us to make the right decisions so that when we come to the end of our life that we can receive a gold medal or maybe a gold key that opens the door to heaven and to eternal happiness and peace.