Reflections

TWENTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, SUNDAY, AUGUST 18, 2019 

It Will Not Be Easy – But Courage!
1. I Have Come to Bring Fire
2. No Easy Peace

Introduction
1. I Have Come to Bring Fire
Today the Lord confronts us with the question: How fiery is your love? How fervent is your faith? Can our faith accept contradiction and ridicule without reducing us to silence? Perhaps we are resigned to the evil in us and in the world and do not stand up for what is right and good. If we love the Lord, and people, enough we do not tolerate an easy peace that puts our conscience to sleep. The truth of the Lord must impel us to prophesy – as did Jeremiah – and face the consequences: sweet or bitter. In this Eucharist we pray to the Lord for the fire of his Spirit.

2. No Easy Peace
Is there anyone of sound mind who doesn’t want peace? Jesus promised: “I leave you peace; my peace I give you,” and he meant it. Yet today we hear him say: “I am here to bring you not peace but rather division.” Is there not a contradiction here? No, for he simply wants to say: My peace and your peace must not be a guilty peace of compromises with evil. It is a peace that allows itself to be disturbed by injustice and wrongdoing that contradicts our faith. We are here together with the Lord who gave up his own peace to accept even death so that we might be free and happy.

First Reading: A Prophet Not to Be Silenced
It would have been easy for Jeremiah the prophet to keep silent. But the Spirit made him speak up to the leaders and tell them the truth: that they were wrong and that they made him suffer for it.

1 Reading: Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10
In those days, the princes said to the king: “Jeremiah ought to be put to death; he is demoralizing the soldiers who are left in this city, and all the people, by speaking such things to them; he is not interested in the welfare of our people, but in their ruin.” King Zedekiah answered: “He is in your power”; for the king could do nothing with them. And so they took Jeremiah and threw him into the cistern of Prince Malchiah, which was in the quarters of the guard, letting him down with ropes. There was no water in the cistern, only mud, and Jeremiah sank into the mud. Ebed-melech, a court official, went there from the palace and said to him: “My lord king, these men have been at fault in all they have done to the prophet Jeremiah, casting him into the cistern. He will die of famine on the spot, for there is no more food in the city.” Then the king ordered Ebed-melech the Cushite to take three men along with him, and draw the prophet Jeremiah out of the cistern before he should die.

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 40:2, 3, 4, 18
R. (14b) Lord, come to my aid!

I have waited, waited for the LORD,
and he stooped toward me. R.

The LORD heard my cry.
He drew me out of the pit of destruction,
out of the mud of the swamp;
he set my feet upon a crag;
he made firm my steps. R.

And he put a new song into my mouth,
a hymn to our God.
Many shall look on in awe
and trust in the LORD. R.

Though I am afflicted and poor,
yet the LORD thinks of me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
O my God, hold not back! R.

Second Reading: Jesus Brings Our Faith to Perfection
Our faith should be strong enough to make us follow Jesus even when the road of life is difficult and our faith is tested.

2 Reading: Hebrews 12:1-4
Brothers and sisters: Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us 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, the leader and perfecter of faith. For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God. Consider how he endured such opposition from sinners, in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.

Alleluia: John 10:27
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord;
I know them, and they follow me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel: I Have Come to Bring Fire
Faith brings to the disciple of Jesus not an easy peace, but struggle, tension and contradiction, for the disciple has to follow the master on the way of the cross.

Gospel: Luke 12:49-53
Jesus said to his disciples: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! 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.”

Commentary
It seems people have an irrepressible tendency towards convenience, seeking what is always easiest; at times, it is also how we approach the Gospel. Similar to when we visit a supermarket and select those things we like the most, we also attend church in the spirit of picking and consuming the things we enjoy. Many times, this is the reason of looking for a church where the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist is appealing because it either has a good choir, the church is nicely decorated, or we like the preaching of the pastor. It is even better if he continually provides our ears with the gift of words that speak of a merciful God, a good father who forgives everything, and whom we can almost say, doesn’t care if we do evil or good since he loves us anyway and we will be rewarded anyhow. We end up designing a religion “a la carte”, similar to when we visit a nice restaurant and upon our arrival the waiter informs us of the day’s specials so we can choose what we like best, and ignore the rest.
The Gospel isn’t like that. In the gospel we find Jesus speaking to us with clarity. If we want to be saved and attain true happiness, he invites us to follow him and live in a particular manner. He does not promise it will always be easy. If the Lord was nailed to the cross, we can’t expect his followers to have it much better. That is what today’s gospel tells us: “I have come to set the earth on fire.” One of the guiding verses to St Anthony Mary Claret. It does not say he has come to place warm towels on our forehead so we can feel better. No. Jesus seeks to change this world, revolutionize it, and turn it upside down. In fact, he draws a clear line: it is either you cross over to his side or remain on your are.
This is no easy task; it often causes pain and division. Peace will come later. The Kingdom will arrive, but first we must conquer and try hard. To obtain justice we must do battle with injustice. Ask Jeremiah. The most important thing in a Christian’s life is not just participating in the Sunday Mass; this is the place where we come together as a community. Where we must work at being Christian is in our daily lives, in our relationships with our family, our co-workers and friends.
This is where we must live as Christians; even if it means going against the opinion of others or losing their friendship. Being Christian is not responding to everything we hear with a smile; it is putting forth, with affection but also with determination, the truth of the Gospel. Let us have no fear; remember many have already given and continue to give their blood in defense of our faith. Their testimony should encourage us to live our Christian life in a more radical manner. ‘Stand always by the truth, even if you stand alone’ (Gani Fawehinmi).

Blessing
Jesus brought fire on earth
to burn with a bright flame.
May our living faith be
such a fire and such a flame,
with the blessing of almighty God,
the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. R/ Amen.
Let us go in peace and live our faith. R/ Thanks be to God. Amen!

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