August (17) 18, 2019
20th Sun in Ord Time
Sat 4:30pm & Sun 8am
Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10; Hebrews 12:1-4; Luke 12:49-53
I think we would all agree, Jesus is the “Prince of Peace”. Right? That’s one of His titles given to Him that describes who He is. At His birth the multitude of angels appeared to the shepherds in the field praising God saying, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests” (Luke 2:14). St. Paul in his Letter to the Philippians says when we go to Jesus in prayer with thanksgiving in our hearts, “Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:7). Yes, Jesus is the source of true peace yet in the Gospel there seems to be a contradiction as He Himself says to His disciples, “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” What?!! What does that supposed to mean?
Jesus is saying to His disciples, 2000 plus years ago and is telling us His disciples today, that if we take our Catholic Christian faith seriously, if we are His true follower, not somewhere in the middle but “all in”, than it’s not always going to be easy for us. The choices and decisions that we make when we live the Gospel will not always be popular to everyone, to those in our own families and those out in the world (human family). The Gospel lived will cause divisions between those who accept Jesus as Lord in their lives and those who do not. Living the Faith in this world can be very challenging at times. Jeremiah in the first reading experienced this as well as all of the prophets. Jesus experienced it. We as His followers will experience it also…So if you would rather spend time in things of God than in things of the world it will cause division with those around you. If you live following the saying WWJD (What would Jesus do?) in all situations and in all places it will cause division. If you are passionate about living Stewardship as a way of life sharing your time, talent & treasure it will cause division with those around you who are not. If you believe in and stand up for the teachings of the Church when the world is saying the complete opposite it will cause division. We must be aware that there is a spiritual battle out there that is raging. We see it all over the news, in our work places and maybe even in our homes.
But as Christians why live this way if it is so difficult, so challenging, if it is so counter-cultural? Because it is so worth it! Because it is the truth! Because it leads to eternal life! And because it gives us the “peace that surpasses all understanding!”
And we live this way because God wants us to live this way because it puts us on the path to becoming a saint. Jesus wants us all to be saints. Yes each and every one of us! The word saint means “holy”, set apart, filled with the Holy One. Jesus says in the Gospel, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing.” The fire He is talking about is the fire of the Holy Spirit, a cleansing, purifying fire, a fire that transforms us into saints. A fire given to us not to make us comfortable but to refine us and purify us just as precious metals are refined by fire. The goldsmith or silversmith holds the precious metal over the hottest part of the flame to burn away all the impurities. But he never takes his eyes off of it because if he leaves it a moment too long it would be destroyed. But how does he know when the precious metal is fully refined? When he can see his image in it! So if you are feeling the heat of the fire in your life, remember that you are precious to God and that He has His eyes on you and will keep watching you until He sees His image in you…That is a saint, purified by the Holy Fire, transformed, reflecting the image of Jesus for all to see…St. Catherine of Siena said, “If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze.” If we are what God wills us to be (saints on fire, purified, refined, transformed) standing up for God’s truth and His ways then we will be able to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ even among the divisions we face. We will be the peace makers, we will be the healers of division.
But to persevere in living the Gospel, to sustain it day after day, week after week in the midst of division, opposition and persecution is not easy. How can we possibly sustain this way of life that God calls us to? In the 2nd reading the writer of Hebrews compares it to a race, “Persevere in running the race that lies before us.” This journey of faith, this pilgrimage through this life, is not a sprint but a marathon. A runner in a marathon has a goal (to get to the finish line). He or she knows what the goal is and keeps focus on it. Runners have short term goals and long term goals…My wife and I have been walking/running for the past several months. Our long term goal and reason we are doing this is for our health and stewardship of our bodies. But within the long term goal we have short term goals: exercise as many times per week as possible. And to break it down even further: during the run, just make it to that flag pole, make it to the next corner, and so on. And we encourage each other to keep on going, to persevere. It’s not easy but we try to keep focus on the big picture…The same is true in the marathon of living the faith. To persevere we must know and keep focus on the goal and why we are striving to live this way: for eternal life with Jesus. And within this long term goal there are short term goals: day –to-day peace and joy that surpasses all understanding, show the world the love of God, keep the fire of the Spirit inside of us…Just like a runner must continue to train and strengthen his or her body we must continue by feeding our spirits and our minds with things of God: prayer, His Word, the Sacraments…The writer of Hebrews tells us to “rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us.” Just as a runner cannot successfully run carrying excess “stuff” with him, things that way him down, so it is with us. Obviously, we must rid ourselves of sinful things and ways. But also to run the marathon of faith we must even rid ourselves of going to certain places that will cause us to stumble. And if necessary we must separate ourselves from people who cause us to fall…But the good news is we are not alone in this faith marathon. Hebrews tells us to “keep our eyes fixed on Jesus” the Prince of Peace & Perfecter of the faith. He is with us all the way if we allow Him to be. The scripture tells us, “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.” Meaning we have the Saints in heaven who are praying for us & cheering us on. And we have each other, in Christian fellowship, to lift each other up and to encourage one another to persevere.
My brothers if we take our Catholic Christian faith seriously, if we are His true follower, not somewhere in the middle but “all in”, than it’s not always going to be easy. It’s a spiritual battle. But it is so worth it! Because it is the truth! Because it leads to eternal life! And because it gives us the “peace that surpasses all understanding!” And because it keeps us on the path to becoming a saint. Deeply embraced and lived, the Gospel way of life focused on Jesus and others will make us the saints we are called to be. As St. Catherine said, “If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze.” And that is the will of God! That the whole world is blazing with the fire of the Holy Spirit, no matter what it takes!