The Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Times
Keep Our Eyes “Fixed On Jesus”
All three readings this Sunday explore the cost of being a disciple of the Lord. In our first reading, we hear the cost visited upon Jeremiah for speaking the truth God commanded him to speak. In the Gospel reading, Jesus prepares his disciples the division that will surely come their way. Just as in the days of old, we also will encounter division in the name of Jesus. In our Epistle, we hear how we are to live out God’s call.A
In our first reading (Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10), we hear the story of how King Zedehiah, at the urging of the court princes, sent Jeremiah to a certain death; and then at the urging of the court eunuch Ebed-melech, reversed himself and rescued Jeremiah. Jeremiah was following God’s call “to root up and to tear down, to destroy and to demolish, to build up and to plant.” (Jeremiah 1:10)
In those days, the princes said to the king: "Jeremiah ought to be put to death; he is demoralizing the soldiers who are left in this city, and all the people, by speaking such things to them; he is not interested in the welfare of our people, but in their ruin." King Zedekiah answered: "He is in your power"; for the king could do nothing with them. And so they took Jeremiah and threw him into the cistern of Prince Malchiah, which was in the quarters of the guard, letting him down with ropes. There was no water in the cistern, only mud, and Jeremiah sank into the mud.
Ebed-melech, a court official, went there from the palace and said to him: "My lord king, these men have been at fault in all they have done to the prophet Jeremiah, casting him into the cistern. He will die of famine on the spot, for there is no more food in the city." Then the king ordered Ebed-melech the Cushite to take three men along with him, and draw the prophet Jeremiah out of the cistern before he should die.
In our Epistle reading (Hebrews 12:1-4), the author of Hebrews teaches us that Jesus had a purpose for how “he endured the opposition from sinners.” - “in order that we may not grow weary and lose heart.”
Brothers and sisters: Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God. Consider how he endured such opposition from sinners, in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.
In our Gospel reading (Luke 12:49-53), Jesus used the symbol of fire to illustrate the division the Word of God might bring. Fire was often used as a metaphor for cleansing and purification, even the presence of God. Jesus made clear to his followers that many will turn away from the Word of God and there will be division, even within families.
Jesus said to his disciples: "I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! 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."
The way of the disciple of Jesus is not an easy one. We are called to speak truth when the world seeks darkness. We are called to live this truth regardless of how others receive it. We are called to be witnesses by our actions as well as our words. We do this “for the sake of the joy” that lies before us. And how are we to do this? Today’s Epistle tells us how: “Rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us . . . and persevere in running the race that lies before us by keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.”
- Read and reflect on the full readings of Today’s Mass at:www.usccb.org/bible/readings/081819.cfm