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20th Sunday of the Year

20th Sunday of the Year – C

 

Dear friends in Christ,

 

Jesus said in the Gospel today: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” Fire is frightening; it can burn up everything. But if controlled, it is warming; it can bring feelings to the heart.

Jesus came to bring fire on earth. When we live in sin, in isolation, in indifference, and in lack of trust and hope, the warmth of his love can put out our coldness. His can fire up our hearts with fervor, enthusiasm, zeal, and intimacy of love and friendship.

But Jesus also came to bring the fire that disturbs and challenges. His flame can be frightening in that it demands justice, purification and reconciliation. His message may cause division among us, in our community, in our family, and in our own heart. “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?” he said. “No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three.”

At first, these statements of Jesus seem to be in direct opposition to who he is and what his mission is about. The truth is: Jesus says that anyone who chooses him is already rejecting any bond with any other person or thing which is in competition with him and his kingdom. We must love God with our whole hearts, with nothing held back or kept in reserve for other people or other thing. Therefore, any commitment we make must be a commitment, not alongside of our commitment for God, but within it.

There is a saying: Jesus has come to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. Today’s Gospel invites that we reflect on the fact that the kingdom of God is both a gift and a challenge.

However, these encouraging words of Jesus can bring us hope: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.” Jesus’ teaching may divide us, and if it does, his love can heal and unite. Love is the most powerful gift of God that brings unity and peace. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Everything else is illusion.

 

Fr. Joe