Twentieth Sunday
in Ordinary Time
A Homily Cycle C 2012-2013
Rev. Luke Dundon

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First Reading - Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10
Responsorial Psalm - 40:2, 3, 4, 18
Second Reading - Hebrews 12:1-4
Gospel - Luke 12:49-53

Luke writes to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.

Jesus said to his disciples: "I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!  There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!  Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division.  From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law."

Wow.  I think Jesus is bringing back fire and brimstone!  Well that can't be.  He's the Prince of Peace.  And yet what did we just hear?  Every word Jesus says is worth infinite value, so why IS the Prince of Peace talking about THROWING fire onto the earth, and dividing households?

I was just on a little vacation, visiting a couple of priest classmates up North.  We had a great dinner one evening, at a restaurant on the beautiful Connecticut River in the gorgeous state of Vermont.  Sunset, outdoor seating, cool weather, it was perfect.  So we discussed priest-things.  I.e., making fun of each other, laughing about memories of seminary, and discussing this weekend's Gospel.  Always a joy to do together.  So one of the classmates said, "Well, this Gospel is obviously all about peace!:  Then the other said, "Noooo . . . it's about division!  Hel-looo, son against father, mother against daughter  . . . and of course, the in-laws!"  and so the two of them, on this BEAUTIFUL evening, went at each other!  How awkward . . . then it hit me, so I almost jumped out of my seat, threw open my arms and said, "BROTHERS!  Do you see what is happening!  As we discuss the word of the Lord with each other, the very thing which Jesus said would happen, (Division), is happening here!  How WONDERFUL!"  They both looked at me with this look that says, "who invited you?"

But seriously, sometimes God's word brings comfort, sometimes it brings about conviction, and today it brings something a little challenging.  Yes, we know, Jesus has come to bring peace, and yes, he has also come to bring the sword, so the Peace which Jesus brings, must be a peace which involves the sword . . . but why?  Why bring the sword?  Why bring division?  MORE division into our lives?  Lord, we already know plenty about division, division which is due to sin . . . THAT can't be the division you've come to bring, so what is it?

Notice that Jesus mentions very close relationships which are destined for division - father and his son, a mother and her daughter, and yes, the unforgettable in-laws.  Very, VERY important relationships, to be sure.  So why does Jesus desire this dividing fire to come into their lives?  I think it's similar to why my doctor says that a shot is helpful to avoid the flu.  It hurts when the needle goes in, but it's for a greater good, my overall health.  The shot SEEMS horrible, but it's good for me.  This fire of the Lord might SEEM to aim for division, but its ultimately given so that we can re-establish the most IMPORTANT, the CLOSEST, HEALTHIEST relationship we could possible have, our friendship with HIM.  A relationship which is meant to come FIRST . . . And yet how easy it is to forget that, because sin is so strong in our world.  We're so easily CONFUSED.  So the fire which heals and purifies, is a fire which might occasionally cause PAIN.  It's seen all over the Bible stories.  It's seen in the cloud of witnesses which we heard in the second reading, the SAINTS who encountered division and trials and crosses in so many circumstances.  But in the end, they were filled with JOY to encounter this pain, this purifying pain, for they knew that the Divine Physician must be re-establishing the most important relationship they could possible have.

So what does this mean for us?  It means that we will encounter a similar fire.  When we go out on our door-to-door visitation before the Festival next month, there is natural apprehension with this.  It involves a risk, of rejection, of anger, slammed doors, of confusion, of division.  Yes.  But praise God.  For we are also helping the Lord to restore His Love on the earth, we are also helping to bring TRUE and DIVINE peace, we are also helping to strengthen our love for each other, by finally loving HIM first.  It can happen in our Door-to-door.  It can happen NOW in our families.  It can happen in our parish.  It can happen in our world, which is YEARNING for a healthy doses of divine medicine.  Lord Jesus, send forth your healing fire into our hearts and our lives, and renew the face of the earth.

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