20th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
Readings: Jeremiah 38:4-6,8-10; Hebrew 12:1-4; Luke 12:49-53
Rejection, opposition, division and even martyrdom are some of the words that help to focus on the message of this Sunday. The readings of this Sunday remind us that to be true disciples of Jesus we must be prepared to face rejection, opposition and even martyrdom. In the first reading the prophet Jeremiah has prophesied the coming deportation of Israel to Babylon. He is immediately accused of treason and thrown into a deep well by the king because of speaking the truth, but the Lord saves him because of his faithfulness. In the letter to the Hebrews, we are reminded of how Jesus endured the cross for our sake, and entered into the Father’s glory. In the Gospel, Jesus reminds us of the painful struggle and conflict that must take place to bring about the Kingdom of God, which he has already inaugurated. "I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already!...Do you suppose I am here to bring peace on Earth? No, I tell you, but rather division..." In these words of Jesus, we find the paradox of the Kingdom that grows in spite of opposition and confrontation. Several times Jesus warned his disciples of this opposition. "If the world hates you, remember that it hated me before you...If they persecuted me, they will persecute you too" (Jn. 15:18,20).
The readings therefore teach us that living our faith and the Gospel we preach, can indeed lead to persecution and death. We are therefore reminded not to lose sight of Jesus who is always with us. During my 20 year stay in Rome I often sat at dinner with Fr. John Zuhlsdorf who told me his own story of conversion from the Lutheran Church of the Missouri Synod, the most conservative Lutheran wing in the US. Now a journalist, Fr. Z, told me while he was in high school he discovered the Catholic faith and told his parents that he wanted to become a Catholic. Immediately he became an outcast to all his relatives. As if that was not enough rejection, as soon as he became a Catholic, Fr Z was attracted to the priesthood and when his parents discovered, he was told never to come to their home. While in the seminary, he questioned the lifestyle of the Rector, and he once again faced another rejection, accused falsely to his bishop and sent away. He was eventually ordained by the bishop of Valletri, South East of Rome, which explains why he lives in Rome. This story of Fr. Z, illustrates the point of this Sunday readings. We are told that in the midst of such conflicts, Christ is present in our struggles. So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) Jesus reminds us of the painful struggle and conflict that must take place to bring about the Kingdom of God. 2) Like Jeremiah, Jesus Christ and Fr. Z, as followers of Jesus Christ we must face rejection, opposition and even martyrdom. 3) Once the fire that Jesus brought on earth is set ablaze no one can extinguish it; the kingdom grows despite rejection, struggle and opposition. Think about it.
©2013 John S. Mbinda