TWENTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP: 20TH SUNDAY, YEAR C, 14TH AUGUST, 2022.
JEREMIAH 38:4-6, 8-10; PSALM 40; HEBREWS 12:1-4; LUKE 12:49-53
In today’s Gospel, we have one of the most perplexing sayings of Jesus.
How on earth could Jesus say that He had not come to bring peace? Why would He say that He had come to bring fire and division?
If there is one thing most of us want so badly, it is peace. If there is something we all dread, it is fire. If there is something we all want in our family, it is unity. So why is Jesus throwing this confusion at us?
Peace had been very central to His message and His identity (Isaiah 9:7-8; Luke 2:14; John 20:21), so why this confusion?
The First Reading of today provides a prophetic precedent and context for Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel.
The event narrated in the First Reading happened in the 6th Century (588BC precisely). The Babylonians were besieging Jerusalem and threatened to besiege Judah too. Zedekiah was advised to enter into an alliance with Egypt against Babylon.
God spoke to Jeremiah to tell them that the only way out was to surrender to Babylon and recognise that it was part of God’s plan that they should be suppressed by the Babylonians at that time. Jeremiah knew that this message would not be well received. He knew that the king and the powerful leaders of Judah would be disheartened. He knew that he could be killed for sharing this message but then he paid the price of being a faithful prophet. Only a fake prophet finds the prophetic ministry easy.
Jeremiah delivered the message and what did he get?
“Let him be put to death…he is disheartening the soldiers…he doesn’t have the welfare of these people at heart…”
Because of this, Jeremiah was thrown into the well to die. Faithfulness to God can sometimes cause us to be thrown into the well of loneliness. We can become secluded, unloved and forgotten, treated as if we don’t deserve to exist.
CONNECTION WITH THE GOSPEL
This explains what Jesus meant in the Gospel.
The experience of Jeremiah is not far from what those who want to follow Jesus should sometimes expect and be prepared for – opposition, criticism and persecution in different forms.
The message of today comes down to these points:
I. It takes great courage and grace to be a Christian. Sometimes it is harder than at other times, but anyone who wants to serve God must be ready to pay the price (Sirach 2:10).
If I want to always be loved, if I am not willing to stand alone but with God, if I am unprepared to be different sometimes, if I want the world to always be at peace with me, if I love myself and my life too much, then I am not ready to pay the price of following Jesus.
II. Faithfulness to God will sometimes bring tension between us and those we love. We shall battle with the temptation to compromise for the sake of those we love. The path of compromise is an easy route but does not lead to true peace.
We cannot follow Jesus if human love and respect take precedence in our lives. This is the meaning of father against son, mother against daughter…
It is better to disagree with those we love and to obey God than to agree with them and disobey God. We cannot serve God in truth unless we love Him above all and are willing to risk all for Him.
III. Jesus knows that it is challenging to follow Him. He understands what we go through daily; He also went through these things. He is there to encourage, support and inspire us. This is why we are told in the Second Reading not to lose sight of Him who for the sake of the joy ahead, endured the cross.
Jesus is asking us today:
Will you still remain faithful to me even when it threatens your cherished relationships?
Will you remain true to me even when you have to suffer hatred, persecution, criticism and rejection?
Are you willing to pay the price of following me, knowing that no one receives the reward of discipleship which is eternal peace without first paying the costly price?