FIRST READING Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10
In those days, the princes said to the king: “Jeremiah ought to be put to death; he is demoralizing the soldiers who are left in this city, and all the people, by speaking such things to them; he is not interested in the welfare of our people, but in their ruin.” King Zedekiah answered: “He is in your power”; for the king could do nothing with them. And so they took Jeremiah and threw him into the cistern of Prince Malchiah, which was in the quarters of the guard, letting him down with ropes. There was no water in the cistern, only mud, and Jeremiah sank into the mud. Ebed-melech, a court official, went there from the palace and said to him: “My lord king, these men have been at fault in all they have done to the prophet Jeremiah, casting him into the cistern. He will die of famine on the spot, for there is no more food in the city.” Then the king ordered Ebed-melech the Cushite to take three men along with him, and draw the prophet Jeremiah out of the cistern before he should die.
SECOND READING Hebrews 12:1-4
Brothers and sisters: Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God. Consider how he endured such opposition from sinners, in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.
GOSPEL Luke 12:49-53
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.”
My sisters and brothers in Christ,
In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood. — The Letter to the Hebrews tells us so directly that we must struggle against sin and keep on struggling and not complain. So many of us want the spiritual life to be an easy choice for Jesus Christ and no work afterward. That is not the teaching that Jesus gives us. Rather we must learn to take up our cross daily and turn to Jesus Himself for our help and keep on in the struggle.
The first reading today is from the Prophet Jeremiah and tells us what faithful to God brings about: torture, imprisonment, rejection, etc. So it should never surprise us that we must keep struggling! We must not think of Jeremiah simply accepting whatever God asks him to do. Instead, we know from other passages of this Prophet that he was also angry with God at times, reproaching God at times for treating him so badly—and yet always striving to do God’s will. The Prophet Jeremiah does not even speak one word in today’s passage!
The Letter to the Hebrews, from which today’s second reading is taken, speaks also about this struggle but tells us to keep our eyes on Jesus, the leader and the perfecter of our faith. Some early monks encouraged those who were suffering to keep their eyes on Jesus but also on others who might be suffering more than they. This is the same message: there is a profound positive meaning in suffering if we are willing to embrace it.
The Gospel today is taken from Saint Luke and points out to us that our usual image of Jesus as sweet and loving needs a bit of correction. Today Jesus tells us in His own words: Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.
This division comes about because Jesus teaches a clear message of love for God and for all others. Not all of us accept this message and allow it to form us. Instead we continue to those who love us in return, we continue help those who already have enough and we continue to see our own good in preference to the good of others. People who are stubborn and try to follow Jesus are often rejected as being rigid or too tough or even unrealistic. Surely in today’s political climate and cultural changes, a true Christian will be less and less acceptable. So many want to lessen the teachings of Jesus so that everyone will be happy, so that everyone will have the peace of no opposition.
Yet that kind of peace must be destroyed. Instead, the only peace that lasts comes from striving to do God’s will and to live in accordance with God’s words and God’s teachings in the Scriptures.
As we celebrate Eucharist this Sunday, let us ask for courage and strength to stand with the teachings of our Church—the teachings of Jesus Himself. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
Your brother in the Lord,