August 18, 2019 – 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
A Reading from the Book of Prophet 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.
A Reading from the Letter to the 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.
A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke (12:40-53)
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.”
Did you ever wonder on what you have just heard from today’s Gospel? Did it ever catch your attention on what Jesus said to us today?
He asked, “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” Why would Jesus say that he has come not to bring peace but division? Is he not the Prince of Peace at all? Is he not going to give his peace on the fearful disciples after his resurrection?
What Jesus actually means of this peace is the peace that the world knows. This peace is about the comfort and routine of life or ‘business-as-usual.’ This means that we go and proceed to what we usually do in life by doing what we want and by satisfying our needs and desires, from mere complacency. This peace only knows about maintaining the status quo, maintaining the order that we are comfortable with and preserving an environment that will not disturb us. Yet, this peace is shallow and remains self-centered. It merely focuses on our ego.
However, Jesus is not bringing this kind of peace but fire and division that will disturb us. This include disturbing our comfort, our current situation, our complacency, passivity and routine. And our readings today, beautifully capture God’s invitations for us.
The Book of Jeremiah tells us how Prophet Jeremiah disturbed those in power. The leaders who enriched themselves with wealth from the people and who were only concerned of preserving their comforts and privileges were threatened by the preaching of the prophet.
Jeremiah prophesied how Jerusalem will be destroyed by their foreign enemy, the Chaldeans. The city will be burned by fire. This was due to the laxity and corruption of the leaders and turned away from God.
This made Jeremiah a great critic of those in power. He challenged them to heed the call of God and to change. He was indeed, a man of God and a man for the people.
Because of this, the princes hated him and promised to bring him down and to make him suffer. As a result, these leaders maligned the prophet by informing the King that Jeremiah was causing fear and division among the ordinary people. They released fake news telling the king that Jeremiah was demoralizing the soldiers and was not interested with the welfare of the people but their ruin.
They did this in order to get rid of the prophet. And indeed, the Lord comes to disturb us when we have grown so attached with our comforts and when we are so caught up with maintaining to what is only beneficial for us.
This is the reason why most of the times, we choose to be passive because like these leaders, we do not want to be challenged, we do not want to go beyond and become life-giving. On the other hand, we do not want also to become like Jeremiah. We do not want to confront ourselves and others because it might cost us conflict and division or to sacrifice the contentment that we apparently enjoy.
But, God does not want us to become a person like this because we will become prisoners of our own selfish desires. We will become abusive and corrupt yet the most insecure of all.
Moreover, Jesus does not want us also to just go with the flow of life and remain passive. We might find ourselves to settle to what is only easy, comfortable and beneficial by doing the same things, thinking the same thoughts and imagining the same ideas to the point that we refuse to do more and give more.
This happens also to us when we are trapped with our routine. We go to mass every day, receive communion, say our prayers, doing the same sin again, do our work and struggle with the same problems without any change in our thoughts and actions as we relate with others. Or we make ourselves buried in the same addiction, fall into the same bad habit and then feel guilty and later do the usual things again.
That is why, the Letter to the Hebrews calls us to let go of every burden and sin. It would be also good to ask ourselves, “What are the burdens that I am carrying? What are the sins that prevent me to go forward?”
If we are able to ask ourselves these questions, then, this will help us to be open to the presence of Jesus. Yet, this presence of Jesus will disturb us because it will make us recognize our selfish desires. He disturbs us because he challenges us to go beyond, to go forward and not to settle to what is only comfortable for us. He disturbs us so that he will be able to bring true peace in us.
Thus, the Lord wants us to find freedom. Jesus is not in favor for making ourselves passive, complacent, self-contained and self-satisfied yet stagnant. Jesus wants us to grow, to be mature and to become the person He wants us to be.
This means that our relationship with God is not limited with what we are doing now, by just attending this Eucharist and that’s it. This Eucharist and the presence of Jesus in this celebration is not to be taken so lightly then.
This is the invitation for us this Sunday, and that is to allow the Lord to disturb our complacency, passivity and routine so that we will be able to see things differently and wonderfully.
And hopefully, as we allow the Lord to disturb us, we may be able to see new perspectives in life despite its monotony, more dynamic and life-giving ways of relating with people around us, and a deeper and life-changing encounter with God through the ordinary expression of our faith. And remember, this call us to be pro-active, honest and courageous in expressing our faith and to the values that we believe as Christians. Hinaut pa.
Jom Baring, CSsR