A HOMILY FOR THE TWENTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – CYCLE “C” – 8/18/19 – SMG
+ Pax et Bonum!!! Peace and goodness to each of you this day!
You know, today, even in 2019, we have so many very laid-back images, and I think what we would call “peaceful” images, of Christianity, and what Christianity should be, in our heads and imaginations. These images are what we most want, most hope, for Christianity to be. And so many times, these “peaceful” images define Christianity for us. We think of Jesus the Good Shepherd, petting sheep, under a big sycamore tree on a beautiful summer day, in a scene that looks like a postcard. Or you know, even more, looks like one of those illustrations from one of those big old family Bibles that we used to have sitting on our coffee table, when we were growing up. We think of the image of Christians praying all together in front of the Blessed Sacrament, united in their Faith, and singing praise music, in a candle-lit Adoration Chapel. We think of our experience on a retreat or in a Christian youth group, where we were all sitting around a campfire, eating S’mores, and singing “Kumbaya”. We have so many of these peaceful, idealized, calming, very passive images of Christianity. And a lot of them come from art, and movies, especially films like Franco Zefferelli’s Jesus of Nazareth or Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. We can idealize Christianity and make it look and feel pretty good. But that’s not what Jesus is talking to us about in our Gospel today.
Today, in St. Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is talking to us about division, and not peace. He’s talking to us about starting a fire, and changing things up. He’s talking about dividing families, and friends, and communities against one another. And this doesn’t sound very peaceful at all. In fact, it sounds terrifying. Where is Gentle Jesus with the sheep? And softly signing praise songs in a candle-lit chapel? And where’s “Kumbaya” and the S’mores? Is this really what God wants? Is this really what God wants us to be about as His followers? Because it sounds like we are going to war, not trying to build the Kingdom of God.
Maybe the best way to understand this better, is to take a look at our First Reading about the Prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah is NOT having a very peaceful time. He is doing God’s work. He is delivering the message that God wants to get to His people. But it is not like sitting around the campfire and singing “Kumbaya”. Jeremiah is ignored, and threatened, and mistreated. Where’s that peaceful, warm, tender feeling that you are supposed to get, when you’re doing God’s Will? And it’s not Jeremiah’s fault, and it’s not God’s fault, and it’s not a problem with Judaism, the problem lies with the fact that many of God’s people, humankind, don’t want to listen to God’s word, and they don’t want to do what God is asking them to do. Some do, but many do not, and those who don’t want to listen to Jeremiah, or God, really, create a division between God’s people, and all of a sudden there is a war going on. That war, between good and bad, between those who want to follow God, and those who don’t want to follow God, is only a million times worse in 2019. This is what Jesus is talking about in our Gospel today. He knew, even then, that those who reject God, and God’s ways, are not going to make things peaceful for the rest of us. And how right He is!
Today, in many parts of Africa, there are roving gangs of young men who hate Christians. These paramilitary groups are killing and torturing Christians. There have been many priests, and sisters, and brothers, and deacons and Catholic lay people martyred in the last ten years. They don’t hate us because Jesus was a nice guy who used to like to pet sheep. They don’t hate us because of the Sacraments. They don’t hate us because we’ve got the Vatican, or because of the good or even the bad that the Church has done, or because of the money and property. They hate us because the Christian life that Jesus came to bring us, and that we are trying our best to live every day, that Christian life, especially that Catholic Christian life, is a threat to the way that they want to live their lives every day. They know what Christianity stands for! And they are threatened by it! They don’t want to restrain their appetites. They don’t want to live just lives. They don’t want to protect the innocent. They don’t want to live good and holy lives. And Christians and Christianity, is a threat to that way of life. And they hate us for that! And that, my brothers and sisters, is what divides us. And the truth is that you don’t have to look so far way to Africa, to find people who hate Christianity and the Church, for the same reasons.
The reality is that today, our lives as Catholic Christians, are often marked with the same kind of turmoil that Jeremiah faced, and that Jesus encountered. The Cross is never very far away from the empty tomb! And so, we know that struggles and suffering are still part of our human experience. As Catholic Christians, we are challenged to keep our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus Christ, never forgetting that He is with us and that He will give us all the grace that we need to stay on the right side. Today, once again, we choose Christ and His Way. It is NOT always going to be peaceful. In fact sometimes, it’s going to be very challenging! But sticking together as God’s people, as people who know the Truth, we find the strength from the Lord, to keep living the Faith, no matter what divisions or challenges, get in the way!
+ May God bless us as we strive to be His holy people, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit..
St. Maria Goretti… Pray for us !!!