20th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Fr. Francis)
On this twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, the Church encourages us to fight against evil by following the footsteps of Christ who came to bring “fire” upon the earth in order to purify, transform, and save us from the perils that afflict us.
In the first reading, prophet Jeremiah suffered grave injustice, for the sake of the message he preached. He became a man of dissension for all the land where he preached. This was because his message was so discomforting to the leaders. So, their best option was to conspire and get rid of him.
Although they succeeded for a while, but God proved that He was a powerful Savior. He did not allow him to perish. Instead, at His own time and in His own way, God came to his aid. The Psalmist testifies: “I waited and waited for the Lord…and He heard my cry.” Our God is ever faithful and ready to deliver us in times of difficulty. This is especially, when we just and innocent. Hence, we must not give up even if we are crushed.
The second reading from the letter to the Hebrews encourages us to keep running steadily. We are to “focus on Jesus the author our faith.” This reading encourages us to emulate Christ’s zeal, and courage during difficult moments in life. Hence, in the face of oppositions, we bust be firm. The strength and energy we need to do all these will definitely be supplied by Jesus Christ Himself.
The gospel of today has left many wondering what Jesus means by bringing “fire and division upon the earth” This is giving the fact that we call Him the prince of peace, and the one who unites. Unfortunately, some fundamentalist Christians have employed this passage in a very literal and negative manner. It is true that Christ’s message is incisive. However, one needs the guidance of the Holy Spirit in order to truly understand what the Lord is to communicating to us.
Today’s gospel reminds us of some events in the Old Testament where fire came into play. God used fire and brimstone to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19:24). Fire and hailstorm were used to punish the Egyptians for their stubbornness (Ex 9:3). The prophet Elijah called down fire from heaven to consume fifty soldiers (2 Kings 1:9-17) and his sacrifice (1 Kg 18, 38).
Does Jesus want to destroy us with this same fire? No, the fire that Jesus brings is different. It is the fire of the Holy Spirit, which purifies our souls from evil and saves us. Hence, Saint Cyril of Alexandria wrote: “…The fire which Christ brings is for men’s salvation and profits…The fire here is, the saving message of the Gospel, and the power of its commandments” (Commentary on Luke, 1859, Sermons 89-98).
Hence, this Sunday Jesus reassures us of his willingness to continue the work of salvation which he started in us. He plans to achieve this through a continuous purification. The fire he wishes to bring is that which is very positive and objective. It is for our own purification and good. It is meant to consume the debris and fabrics of inordinate attachments, immorality, injustice and corruption in our lives, communities and world at large.
Finally, the good news is a cause of division because it is a contrast to an unjust society and all that goes contrary to it. Hence, let us implore Christ: “Lord, come to my aid!” Amen.
Fr. A. Francis HGN