AUGUST 18, 2019 TWENTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (Lec. 120)
1) Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10
2) Hebrews 12:1-4
3) Luke 12:49-53 Gospel related: CCC 536, 607, 696, 1225, 2804
Today’s first reading is another version of a familiar scenario: a prophet ignored, derided and mistreated. In this case, it is Jeremiah who prophesied in Jerusalem during the reign of Zedekiah. For many years he had warned the people of Judah about an oncoming disaster. Often referred to as the weeping prophet, Jeremiah scolded the Jewish leadership of the day for its failure to worship the one true God alone, and for its reliance on military alliances over trusting in the Lord.
Of course, no one wanted to hear these words of doom and gloom. In fact, determined to silence him forever, but to avoid having his blood on their hands, those in power contrived to have him arrested and imprisoned in a muddy cistern. There, they hoped he would be forgotten and would die.
As a prophet, Jeremiah brought division. Not because God sought to instigate such, but because people choosing whether to listen to and follow God’s word – or not – necessarily divided the community. With a message no one wanted to hear, Jeremiah knew that his fidelity to the Lord could possibly result in death and yet he did not shy away from obeying God’s call.
On his way to Jerusalem, Jesus tells his disciples that he has come to establish not peace but division. He describes how his message will divide communities and pit family members against family members. Relationships will suffer, and he himself will suffer death. As with every previous prophet, those who heard – and still hear – Jesus’ message had the choice to heed it, or ignore it. That is what divides. Because when we enter into Christ’s baptism with him, we are united to him. And with each other.
Today, our lives as Christians are often marked with the same kinds of turmoil as our ancestors. Just as the cross is never too far from the empty tomb, so struggles and suffering are part of the human experience. Yet as Christians we are challenged to keep our eyes firmly fixed on the Lord – never losing sight of his presence and his offer of grace. We are challenged to choose Christ’s message, uniting ourselves to and drawing strength from all those who walk the pathway of the Christian life with us.