20th Sunday of the Year C
The Sacred Scriptures, inspired by the Holy Spirit, grew out of the lived experience of the first community of faith.
I would dare to say that God makes himself known through all the stuff that happens to us on any given day.
What an example we have in today’s gospel where Jesus talks about division.
He lets us know early on that faith in him can cause division with relationships we hold dear.
I remember as a little child, about six years old when my sister dated a man for five years.
He did not want his children baptized Catholic.
She told him, “I cannot marry you.”
She left him and later married Tom, my brother-in-law, who converted to the Catholic faith.
They were married for almost 57 years and raised five beautiful children.
This has been the experience of the Church down through the centuries beginning with the first followers of Jesus.
Our earliest brothers and sisters faced tough issues:
Gentiles sharing the same faith as Jews? Eating at the same table? One people?
That wealthy people had a responsibility to the poor?
Back then, the family was a safety net that you could always fall back on.
If you left the family for Jesus, you were on your own.
There was no Social Security, health insurance, or pension plan.
You became a bigger, hoping someone would take you in, preferably another Christian.
So Jesus told us he came not for peace but division.
He knew His faith-filled disciples would be counter-culture.
However, this division is not just with people who are different from us.
This division begins with us.
Jesus used the metaphor of a blazing fire, a very violent image.
Let’s think about it differently.
Think of layers and layers of undergrowth in a forest.
The soil is smothered so much that new growth is impossible.
Also, think of fire as a beacon that gives light and attracts attention.
A blazing fire draws us to its warm and light.
Let the power of the blazing fire of this gospel purge the heaviness of old-growth that stops fresh thinking.
Maybe it gives guidance to us in the justice we are meant to live and the attention we must call to the needs of all, (especially the down and out).
And maybe it is a reminder that the life of our Christian community is meant to be attractive to His gentle power and warmth.
What a beautiful discovery of new life lies deep within us when that blazing fire burns away all that is not of God (and we love it).
If the price we pay for witnessing to any of these values is that we divide the crowd, so be it.1
My friends, in our families, our parish ministries and church, remember: it’s okay to disagree.
Conflict can be a blazing fire that burns away our undergrowth and the way we’ve always done things.
But don’t let it be the vicious fire that burns up all the good we’ve done and can do.
Let it be the blazing fire of charity, dignity, careful listening, and don’t forget compassion, all fruits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
“How him I wish the fire was already blazing!”
1 Preaching to the Converted, Richard Leonard, S J page 325.