August 14, 2022 – 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/081422.cfm)
“The Lord be with you” and we normally nowadays reply: “And also with your spirit”, – where decades ago we used to reply: “And also with you.” As Christians, we usually use these words of greetings as our recognition & faith of God’s presence in our midst & in one another.
A priest once celebrated Eucharist in his own parish church. As he was about to greet these words to the people, he was not able to broadcast, because there is something wrong with the microphone’s connections. While tapping its cord, he eventually regains contact. But unfortunately, instead of the usual “the Lord be with you”, he loudly broadcasts to the people: “There is something wrong with the microphone”. And the people reply: “And also with your spirit”.
Funny story it might be, but it is also telling us something – that sometimes we need to hear the words differently for us to fully appreciate and understand its meanings. This is what Jesus is also doing when he said the disturbing message in our gospel today, “I have come to set the earth on fire and I wish it were already blazing; I have come not to establish peace but division.” For the apostles and to us to fully understand the value and consequences of discipleship – of following Him, Jesus has to present us the Good News differently – somewhat off and disturbing so that we may fathom the height, width and depth of its meaning.
Like “The Lord be with you. And also with you” greeting. Surely we are familiar with those words. But come to think of it, though mistakenly said, but somehow it is not totally false that we may also say that there is something wrong with us & with our spirit. Yes, in almost all liturgies and prayers we celebrate, we hear and speak those words. But what does it really mean?
First, It’s a great Honor and Privilege. We should feel then happy and great that the Lord is here with you and I, with us. Remember the first and primary good news of peace, love and hope ever preached are those words: “the Lord is with You”. But do we really feel great and honored hearing and speaking those words? Are we excited to hear and proclaim it? Or upon hearing and saying those words, we only say: “OK lang”, like “Ya, sounds familiar – We have heard it before, so what’s the fuss?” Like youngsters nowadays might say: “the Lord be with you? OK, fine, whatever”.
Second, It’s personal and intimate. The Lord is WITH YOU. He is with you near – up close and personal. But do you really want Him to be nearby and near with you — OR would rather have Him far and away from you, who comes in handy when needed only? Would you rather Him as your buddy companion KASAMA, OR your usual “suking” gasoline station, handy only when empty & needed?
Third, It’s communal. He is not only with You but with all of Us. He dwells amongst us, and lives and stays with Us. He is with and in each and everyone of us, good and bad alike. But do we want Him to be with others & respect His presence with other than ourselves -OR do we prefer that he is exclusively with you and your family or group but not with the outcasts and rejected or your competitors or enemies?
Fourth, It’s a Great Task and Responsibility. To welcome Him into our lives demands responsibility and total dedication. Meaning to accept, recognize and believe in the Good News that “the Lord is with you” is to be converted – to completely change your own ways and style of life and be patterned into His own faith and life. This is the cost of welcoming and following Jesus into our lives. Christian Discipleship would cost us a lot, for life will be different & never be the same again. Once you recognize & welcome Him to be with You, you cannot but change your ways & lifestyle. Perhaps that’s the reason why sometimes we don’t take those words: “the Lord be with you” seriously for we know that if we do so, there will division, tensions, disharmony and conflict within ourselves and with others, for all the changes it entails following Jesus demands of us.
For those who have seen the movie Spiderman 1, its simple message is “Great power comes with great responsibility”. In the same way, to believe in Jesus Christ – The Lord with Us, to follow Him is a Great personal and communal Power, Honor and Privilege but also comes with Great Responsibility. Somehow this is what Jesus is trying to say to us when he said: “I have come to set fire on earth, and how I wish it where already blazing.”
Indeed, there might be at times something wrong with us in life & spirit; both as the announcer/proclaimer (priest broadcasting: there is something wrong…) & listeners/receivers (people responding: and with your spirit) of the message. But the good news and message remain always the same: EMMANUEL – the Lord with us… was with us, is with us and will always be with us – whatever, however, whoever & whenever we might be.
We pray then that we Christians may remain be shaken & disturbed by the deeper meaning of Lord’s gospel, so that we may be more Jesus-like in being passionately responsible for the Good News of Emmanuel- God being with us. Amen.