Not Peace but Fire and Division

August 14, 2022 – 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/081422.cfm)

It is confusing or even to some perhaps terrifying. We certainly want peace. We want unity. We want prosperity. Yet, Jesus asked us today, “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” He even said earlier, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!”

What Jesus actually means about this peace is the peace that the world knows. This peace is about the comfort and routine of life or of ‘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, that we are comfortable with and preserving an environment that will not disturb us. Yet, this peace is shallow and remains self-centered. It focuses on our ego.

However, Jesus is not bringing this kind of peace but fire and division that will disturb us. This includes disturbing our comfort, our current situation, our complacency, passivity and routine.

This is what we have also heard in the first reading from the Book of Jeremiah. Prophet Jeremiah by being true to the mission God gave him, disturbed the comfort and complacency of those in power and influence. By reminding the people of their covenant with God, “I am your God and you are my people,” they too were reminded that this covenant was bounded in fidelity and receptivity of God’s commands and of giving oneself for others. This role of the prophet includes the denouncement of the misdeeds and unfaithfulness committed especially by those in power and authority.

But then, Jeremiah’s presence in constantly calling the people to repent, became a sore and threat to those who were in power. This was the reason why they wanted to silence and eliminate him by killing him. Yet, Jeremiah was rescued by a foreigner, Ebed-melech, who realized that Jeremiah was a prophet of God.

This experience of Jeremiah must have made him realized too that indeed, it is dangerous to believe in God. Believing in God and committing to be faithful to the Lord is dangerous because we shall become a “sign of contradiction” to what is popular, to the comfortable and to the powerful.

This brings us again to what Jesus said in today’s Gospel that “he has come to set the earth on fire, that he brings not peace but division.”

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.

Thus, when we become passive, we do not want to be challenged, we do not want to go beyond and become life-giving. 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 who becomes a prisoner of his/her own selfish desires. We will become abusive and corrupt yet the most insecure of all.

Jesus does not want us also to just go with the flow 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 to us when we are trapped in our routine and comfort. We might 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 might just bury ourselves in the same addiction, fall into the same bad habits and then feel guilty but later do the usual things again. Or in dipping ourselves into our abusive practices in our work, business or profession in order to advance our selfish and self-serving tendencies.

It would be good, then, 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. 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 and in our community.

The Lord wants us to find freedom. Jesus is not in favor in making ourselves passive, complacent, self-contained and self-satisfied yet stagnant. Jesus wants us to grow, to be mature and to become the person and community 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.

The invitation for us is to allow the Lord to touch and to disturb our complacency, passivity and routine so that we will be able to see things differently and wonderfully.

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 a life-changing encounter with God through the ordinary expressions of our faith. And remember, this calls us to become “a sign of contradiction” to what is evil, abusive and oppressive by being pro-active, honest and courageous in expressing our faith and the values that we believe as Christians. Kabay pa.

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