The 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 14 August 2022
Lectionary Readings: Jer. 38:3-6. 8-10; Ps. 40:2-4. 18; Heb.12:1-4; Lk. 12:49-53
Theme: Following Jesus can cause division
The Gospel for today is given the following titles in the different translations: ‘Jesus, the cause of division’ (NRSVACE); ‘Jesus causes division’ (African Bible); and ‘Christ brings division’ (NKJV). Nicholas King in his translation of The New Testamentplaces verses 35-59 under the heading of ‘The starkness of discipleship on being ready for the end-time’.
The words that stand out for me as I read this passage are: ‘fire’, ‘baptized’, ‘peace’ and ‘division’. ‘Fire’ conjures up for me many images from the First Testament: firstly, in Genesis 15:7-21 where the LORD God ratifies the Covenant with Abram by sending down fire between the animal offerings that Abram had prepared; secondly, in Exodus in the ‘burning bush’ at the call of Moses (Exodus 3:1-3ff.); thirdly, also in Exodus 40:38 – fire was seen in the cloud above the Ark as the Israelites journeyed through the desert at night; fifthly, the call of Isaiah, chapter 6:1-8. This is interesting for our purposes – one of the Seraphim takes a burning coal and places it on Isaiah’s lips and tells him: “your wickedness is removed and your sin purged” (v.7). Isaiah is then able to say to the LORD: “Here I am, send me!” He is now ready to be a prophet of the LORD.
The African Bible speaks about two of the images I mentioned above: “fire, which signifies both judgment and justification; and baptism, which is a reference to the passion into which Jesus will soon be plunged”.
Justification is about truth and I see in both the reading from Jeremiah and the Gospel that following the truth who is the LORD God (Jeremiah) and Jesus Christ (Luke), will always bring division where there are believers and unbelievers. We see Jeremiah speaking the truth to all the people that Babylon will take their city. The princes plead with the king to have Jeremiah killed but instead they put him in a waterless pit to die of thirst. We witness the suffering of the one who speaks God’s word and we also see the LORD save him through an Ethiopian eunuch. As we read in the Psalm: “(The LORD) drew me from the deadly pit… (The LORD) set my feet upon a rock…”
The reading from Hebrews encourages us to “run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God”.
In the context of our readings today we are called to be tested by fire having been baptized in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Following Jesus in truth will bring divisions among people but true peace and joy await those who persevere in faith.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. Have I experienced division within my family because of my following of Jesus Christ? How have I responded? 2. Hebrews speaks about perseverance and the joy that awaits us if we keep our eyes upon Jesus and journey with him and other believers. What challenges do I face in my daily life to continue on this journey?
Bibliography: Hayford, Jack (gen. ed.) Spirit Filled Life Bible (Nashville: 1991); King, Nicholas. The New Testament (Great Britain: 2004); The African Bible (Nairobi: 1999); The Daily Missal (Paulines: 2012); www.biblegateway.com NRSVACE
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Bernadette Teresa Chellew, Bat Kol alumna 2008