With Christ, we are Victorious
Readings: 1st: Jer 38:4-6. 8-10; Ps: 39:2-4.18; 2nd: Heb 12:1-4; Gos: Lk 12:49-53
This brief reflection was written by Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a member of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans). He is a missionary in Puerto Rico. He is the Parish Priest of Parroquia la Resurrección del Senor, Canóvanas, and the Major Superior of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans), Circumscription of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. He was the chancellor of the Diocese of Fajardo Humacao, Puerto Rico. Fr. Canice is a member of the Academy of Homiletics. For more details and comments contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
On this twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, the Church encourages us to fight against evil by following the footsteps of Christ, who came to bring “fire” upon the earth in order to purify, transform, and save us from the perils that afflict us.
In the first reading, the prophet Jeremiah suffered grave injustice for the sake of the message he preached. He became a man of dissension for all the land where he preached. This was because his message was so discomforting to the leaders. So, their best option was to conspire and get rid of him.
Although they succeeded for a while, God proved that he was a mighty Saviour. He did not allow him to perish. Instead, at his own time and in his way, God came to his aid. The Psalmist testifies: “I waited and waited for the Lord, and he heard my cry.” Our God is ever faithful and ready to deliver us in times of difficulty. This is especially when we just and innocent. Hence, we must not give up even if we are crushed.
The second reading from the letter to the Hebrews encourages us to keep running steadily. We are to “focus on Jesus, the author of our faith.” This reading encourages us to emulate Christ’s zeal and courage during difficult moments in life. Hence, in the face of opposition, we must be firm. Indeed, Jesus Christ will supply the strength and energy we need to do all these.
The gospel of today has left many wondering what Jesus means by bringing “fire and division upon the earth.” This is because we call Him the Prince of peace and the one who unites. Unfortunately, some fundamentalist Christians have employed this passage in a very literal and negative manner. Christ’s message is indeed incisive. However, one needs the guidance of the Holy Spirit to understand what the Lord wishes to communicate to us.
Today’s gospel reminds us of some events in the old testament where the fire came into play. God used fire and brimstone to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19:24). God used fire and hailstorm to punish the Egyptians for their stubbornness (Ex 9:3). The prophet Elijah called down fire from heaven to consume fifty soldiers (2 Kings 1:9-17) and his sacrifice (1Kg 18, 38).
Does Jesus want to destroy us with this same fire? No, the fire that Jesus brings is different. It is the fire of the Holy Spirit, which purifies our souls from evil and saves us. Hence, Saint Cyril of Alexandria writes, “The fire which Christ brings is for men’s salvation and profits…The fire here is, the saving message of the Gospel, and the power of its commandments” (Commentary on Luke, 1859, Sermons 89-98).
Hence, this Sunday, Jesus reassures us of his willingness to continue the work of salvation which he started in us. He plans to achieve this through continuous purification. The fire he wishes to bring is that which is very positive and objective. It is for our purification and the consumption of the debris and fabrics of inordinate attachments, immorality, injustice, and corruption in our lives.
Finally, the good news is a cause of division because it contrasts to an unjust society and all that goes contrary to it. Hence, let us implore Christ: “Lord, come to my aid!”
Peace be with you!