Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 14, 2022
What in the world is a preacher supposed to do with these three Readings? Especially the Gospel!!
We come to the Eucharist, in part, to escape all the conflict and division that is absolutely raging in our world. We come to the Eucharist, in part, hoping for a little peace…and rightly so. It’s here that we remember in a special way Jesus’s own words: Peace I give you…my Peace I leave you!
And now we are told…by the Lord Himself, no less…Who, by the way, really does seem to be contradicting Himself: No Peace for you! No Peace for you! I’m here to divide you!
I gotta tell ya…I spent a lot of time reflecting on each of these three passages, trying to make some sense out of it all. After every prayer session, I felt exhausted…frustrated…and more than a little confused.
Finally…it dawned on me…why wouldn’t I be worn out after engaging these three Readings? They are nothing short of a spiritual workout! Just think about it. Each demands a whole lot of energy…but together…this is like watching a Bruce Willis movie. Our Liturgy of the Word this weekend is an action-packed thriller, carrying us from one great challenge to another, without allowing us enough time to catch our breath.
First, we’re thrown into a dark, damp well…sinking deeper and deeper into the mud…and then, without warning, we’re dragged back into the glaring light of day. No sooner do we surface, and St. Paul tells us to: Lace up your running shoes…you’ve got a marathon to run.
But, at the finish line, there are no cooling blankets…or water bottles waiting to refresh us. Instead, there is this challenging Gospel that conjures up images of a war zone! DIVISION…FIRE! Anything but peace! There’s no relief!
At least I didn’t find any relief from the action and drama…and confusion…until the idea struck me that, in linking these three Readings together, the Church…whether or not intending to…has painted a picture of the life of a disciple of Jesus Christ…from womb to grave!
Wouldn’t you think that when Jeremiah was unexpectedly dragged out of that well, his first words might have been: I need to clean myself up!
When, without warning, we are born into time, pulled into the glaring light of this world, we are covered in original sin…and we need to be cleaned up. So, we are brought to the Living Waters of Baptism. A little soap and water might have done the trick for Jeremiah…BUT DISCIPLESHIP DEMANDS MUCH, MUCH MORE!
To be a follower of Christ…a radical cleansing is required…a cleansing that is so powerful, so intense, so complete…that it is best described as REBIRTH!
And the agent for this REBIRTH…this RE-CREATION, actually, is FIRE and THE HOLY SPIRIT!
The Lord uses the unsettling, even jarring image of “divisions within the family structure.”
But the spiritual rebirth Christians experienced by FIRE and THE HOLY SPIRIT is even more intimate…and divisive!
Baptism is the catalyst that divides and separates what is good and holy and life giving within us; in other words, that which makes us in the IMAGE AND LIKENESS OF OUR CREATOR…from our shadow selves…our dark sides…our evil inclinations.
With that, we lace up our running shoes and begin the marathon that St. Paul speaks about in our Second Reading, the marathon of life, that really does require a whole lot of energy.
Now, here is the Good News:
All along the way, we have the other Sacraments to refresh us…nourish us…heal us…unite us…and strengthen our commitment to Christ and to one other. It’s through the Sacramental life of our Church that we are able to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus…the leader and perfecter of faith. And it is the very same Jesus Christ Who is there to greet us when we finally cross the finish line to become part of the cloud of witnesses to the eternal Glory of God.
What in the world is a preacher supposed to do with these three Readings? What are we to make of these three passages?
I suggest that we sit with them…pray over them…reflect on them…no matter how exhausting or confusing the well might be, until each of us hears in our minds and hearts the message they hold for that part of ourselves that was divided from our dark side and is nourished and invigorated by the Life-Giving Word of The Lord!
What should we do with these Readings? We should claim them as our story, a story that begins in darkness…but ends in Perpetual Light…The Light of Christ.