The readings for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C can be found HERE.
1st Reading: Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10
Intro: This short selection from the historical portion of the Book of Jeremiah shows the struggle between the earthly wisdom of the King’s advisors and the message God tries to send the king through Jeremiah. The connection with the Gospel is their failure to listen to God which eventually resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem and the deportation of the people.
2nd Reading: Hebrews 12:1-4
Intro: The author of Hebrews has just reminded them of the inspiring stories of faith of the men and women of Hebrew Scripture. He says we have an even better example in Jesus, whom we should follow in our struggles of life even to the point of the shedding of our blood.
Gospel: Luke 12:49-53
Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?
Wow! Is this the Jesus we all know and love, the smiling Jesus that heals people’s illnesses and drives out people’s demons? Is this the Jesus who told the woman with the 12-year hemorrhage to go in peace and the one who said peace be with you to those he encountered after His resurrection? What is this division and fire He is talking about?
The early Christians experienced the division that Luke’s Gospel speaks about. Christians were pushed out of Judaism because we believe Jesus is God, the second person in the Holy Trinity. The Jewish understanding of monotheism couldn’t allow for this. The civil authorities, too, viewed Christians as a threat; they wouldn’t worship the gods of Rome which was considered everyone’s civic duty. A great example of what Christians endured is the story of Saints Perpetua and Felicity, found HERE. Perpetua was martyred for her faith by the civil authorities but prior to her martyrdom had to deal with family members trying to get her to give up the faith and retain her earthly life. The result of faith in Jesus brought conflict within religious communities, civil society and families.
But isn’t Jesus the King of Peace? Yes, He is, unless you think of peace only in worldly terms as the absence of conflict. If we think of peace as the inner peace that faith in Jesus gives us in the face of conflict, and the peace that results from love of the other, then Jesus is the King of Peace. His peace comes from living the love that He taught, even in the face of opposition or fear or hatred. His peace comes from the love that puts an end to opposition, fear and hatred. His peace is deeper than simply the absence of conflict and can’t be achieved by exercising control over the other. 1
Jesus was seen as a threat to Judaism, and the leaders of the Jewish people, at that time, believed he had to die to preserve their community; they were acting out of an effort to accomplish the good as they saw it. What was Jesus’s response? He chose to love them, even asking the Father to forgive them. He chose not to fight evil with evil but, rather, with love. It brought Him resurrection and brought us salvation. That’s the baptism He had to accomplish, and He did it out of love for us. When we truly embrace the cross, it opens us to the peace that only He can give.
When we accept Jesus as lord of our lives it can create an inner conflict, from time to time, between the way we are used to thinking and acting and the demands of the Gospel. Jesus likes to help us become better versions of the person God created us to be. I’m reminded of my mother disciplining me and saying she was doing it for my own good. I still fought it, but that is what discipline is all about. That is what being a disciple is all about. That’s the road to inner peace.
The inner tension of the conflict which our discipleship brings about is the tension that causes growth to happen. If we open ourselves to the Spirit and devote ourselves to living the life of discipleship, we grow and begin to experience that post-resurrection peace that Jesus wished on His Apostles. That’s when He becomes the King of Peace in our lives.
Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” Lk 12:51-53
What words or phrases grabbed your attention during the Liturgy of the Word on Sunday? What connection do those words or phrases have to your day-to-day life? (Why do you think they grabbed your attention?) What might God be trying to say to you through these words or phrases? What response should you make? What action should you take?
Reflect upon/Share about a situation in your life when you experienced conflict in deciding what was the right thing to do. What caused the difficulty you experienced in deciding was was the right thing to do? How did you resolve the conflict? What can you do to increase your ability to follow the Lord more closely in the midst of such conflicts?
Verse by Verse
Lk 12:49|”I have come to set the earth on fire…”. Scripture scholars have interpreted the fire in many ways. I think all agree that to the first hearers of this Gospel it must have reminded them of the intensity of the conflict between Christianity and Judaism & paganism of the day. Gunzelmann interprets it to be the “eschatological conflagration” at the end of time. For me, it reminds me of John the Baptist’s words in Lk 3:16 “he (Jesus) will baptize you with the Spirit and fire.”
Lk 12:50|”There is a baptism with which I must be baptized…”. The baptism, about which Jesus is talking, is his death which is the first result of the fire. His Baptism of death reminds me of Mk 10:38 where James and John are seeking the places at Jesus’ right and left, in the kingdom and Jesus asks them “Can you… be baptized with he baptism with which I am baptized?”. It seems to me that Jesus’ desire that it be already started must be human anxiety about the coming suffering. Or, it may be His desire that the process of perfecting creation be started.
Lk 12:51|”Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?” The American Bible Society Handbook says that the peace He speaks of is a realm of peace which he says he has not come to establish on earth, but rather division. Remember that, in this section, we have been distinguishing between the worldly & the spiritual. The peace that comes with following the Lord is peace with God, peace with self & peace with life itself.