Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 120 (NAB Translation)
This week’s first reading from the book of prophet Jeremiah recounts for us the challenges we may be faced with when conveying God’s truth when the message is unpopular. In this passage Jeremiah is accused of demoralizing his countrymen. Jerusalem is surrounded by the Babylonians and Jeremiah has prophesied that those who stay to fight the Babylonians will die, but that those who surrender will be spared. The leaders don’t want to hear this, and rather than listening to Jeremiah, they tell King Zedekiah to punish Jeremiah by throwing him into a muddy cistern where he will starve to death. A friend of Jeremiah’s appeals to the king to have him spared and — fortunately for Jeremiah– the king changes his mind. The point of the story is that Jeremiah, like Jesus, was not interested in making people feel comfortable or telling them what they wanted to hear. His job was to give the message of God in its entirety, both the pleasant and unpleasant. Messages of admonishment and judgment are often rejected and both Jesus and Jeremiah suffered for telling the truth. If this was the case for these great a prophet and even the Son of God, we should be prepared to face this as well.
The response for this Psalm is: “Lord, come to my aid.”
This week’s reading from the letter to the Hebrews reminds us of the heroes of the Old Testament whose faith withstood many obstacles. These witnesses should likewise inspire us to remove all barriers to holiness and to prepare ourselves to “run the race” set before us. And to help us in this race, we are told to “not lose sight of Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection.” So despite all the suffering and opposition that we might endure, we have Jesus’ very own example as our inspiration, knowing that he suffered far more than we have but has now be crowned in glory. The point is that we should not fall into discouragement but rather keep our gaze fixed on Christ that we might successfully run the race to claim the salvation that He won for us.
In this week’s Gospel from St. Luke, we hear one of the hard sayings of Christ, claiming that He has come to “bring fire to the earth.” Theologians have variously interpreted the word “fire” as symbolizing the Holy Spirit, apostolic zeal, or a fire of purification to cleanse the earth from sin. All of these definitions represent God’s burning love for men as demonstrated by the death that Christ would undergo, which He refers to as a type of “baptism” (since He would go down in death and rise again like a person dunked in the baptismal water). Jesus then proceeds to shock us by telling us He didn’t come to bring peace, but rather division! Many people are still puzzled by this seemingly harsh message. Didn’t God send Jesus to bring a message of peace? Yes, he did. But the peace that Christ brings is not the kind of peace that tolerates sin, or falsehood or injustice. And for this reason Jesus’ message is controversial and meets with opposition even today. There is simply no way to be “neutral” about Jesus or the demands of the Gospel. Jesus is uncompromising. Those who wish to follow Jesus and are faithful to His message must be prepared for the division this will cause.
Reflection question from Bishop Vásquez
Today’s Gospel speaks of division in families. Is there a rift in your family? Spend some time discerning whether it is time reconcile with estranged family members. Pray for healing of this division.