August 14 - Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time : Fire upon the Earth

August 11th, 2016

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First Reading  Jeremiah 38:4-6,8-10
Jeremiah is punished for criticizing the wealthy for their corruption and theirinjustice to the poor.


Responsorial Psalm  Psalm 40:2-4,18
A prayer for God's help


Second Reading  Hebrews 12:1-4
Let us persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyesfixed on Jesus.


Gospel Reading
Luke 12:49-53


Jesus makes an important statementin today's Gospel.

a. "I have come to bringfire on the earth." This is not the fire of destruction, the fire thatravages rain forests every year. It is the fire of heat and light. It is thefire that cleanses and purifies. It is the fire of God's presence as in theburning bush that Moses saw, as in the pillar of fire that accompanied theIsraelites in the desert, as in the tongues of fire at Pentecost where thebringing of fire was mandated to the disciples, to the Church, to all of us. Asa purifying fire it can also bring pain and purification but it ultimatelyleads to conversion and liberation.

c. "I have come not tobring peace but division." It is especially painful to hear the Gospelspeak of families being broken up because of Jesus. But this is less a prophecyor an expression of God's will than a description of the Church's very realexperience from the time the Gospels were being written down to our own day. In many countries, both Christianindividuals and Christian communities are seen as a threat to governments,various power groups and other religious groups. We saw this in practicallyevery Communist regime during this century: the Soviet Union, the East Europeansatellites, China and Vietnam. And these governments had reason to fear eventhough Stalin mockingly asked once how many divisions the Pope had. Yet it wasthe faith of Christians, who, without firing a shot (Stalin was right), wassignificantly instrumental in the collapse of Communism in Central and EasternEurope. Yet, in the long history of the Church, how many families have sufferedbecause members became Christians? Most of us – especially those who have livedin non-Christian or anti-Christian societies – probably have met someone whowas rejected by their family for becoming an active Christian. And, notinfrequently, persecution comes even from other Christians, from within theChurch itself. And how many people realize that there have been more martyrsfor the faith in the supposedly advanced and civilized 20th century than in allthe preceding centuries!