Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

  • Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10
  • Hebrews 12:1-4
  • Luke 12:49-53

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The prophet Jeremiah was called by God to be a prophet to his people, and it wasn’t a secret. Jeremiah knew that God had created and prepared him, even before his conception to become what he was – a prophet. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you” (Jeremiah 1:5). But Jeremiah was a prophet of God that few listened to, that many abused, that few followed, and that many, especially those in power, ignored. It got so bad for Jeremiah that he lamented nearly the identical words as Job did when he cursed the very day he was born, “Curse be the day on which I was born! May the day my mother gave me birth never be blessed!” (Jeremiah 20:14, Cf. Job 3:3-12).

In the chapter preceding today’s first reading for the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time – C Cycle, Jeremiah’s enemies falsely accuse him and put him prison, and in today’s reading from Jeremiah 38:4-10, we hear how his enemies plotted with King Zedekiah to sentence the suffering prophet to death, before he was rescued at the intercession of Ebed-melech. If Jeremiah had preached tolerance, inclusion, acceptance, accompaniment, and all those other ideas we hear echoed from the pulpits the perishing Church today, he would not have made any enemies. Rather, it was because he preached against sin and warned the people of the consequences of their sins is why he was hated, persecuted, and wanted dead. It is true; telling someone about their sins, strikes at the heart and only allows for two outcomes; either acceptance or rejection of the message. While the former leads to repentance, the latter always leads to hatred of the messenger and possibly their death.

Our struggle against sin is what Hebrews in today’s second reading calls a race; a race that a cloud of witnesses have already completed, and a race that we too can complete by fixing our eyes “on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith;” a faith that we read in last week’s reading, “is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen” (11:1). In contrasting the first and second readings, we witness how Jesus is the pefecter of our faith why we place our trust in Him to guide us through this race. For, if Jeremiah was the longest and most persecuted of all the Old Testament prophets, the second reading from the book of Hebrews 12:1-4, demonstrates how Christ Jesus perfected his calling. For example, while Jeremiah found the life that God called Him to, to be a tribulation, the author of Hebrews wrote, “For the sake of the joy that lay before him he [Jesus] endured the Cross, despising its shame.” While the last thing heard about Jeremiah is that he was taken to Egypt with the prophet Baruch by Johanan, Jesus took “his seat at the right of the throne of God.” While Jeremiah’s long-suffering did not save us, today’s reading reminds us that the Lord “endured such opposition from sinners, in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart.”

The Jesus that we hear from in the Gospel of Luke this Sunday, is at odds with the non-judgmental Jesus of tolerance, inclusion, acceptance, and accompaniment that we hear preached about from the pulpits the perishing Church today. “Jesus said to his disciples: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” Fire, throughout the Bible, is an expression of God’s love and judgment. He sets things ablaze so that they will be made pure, holy, and set apart. And, for this, Luke writes that Jesus was feeling the human emotion of burning impatience, saying, “. . . how great is my anguish until it is accomplished.” The fire that Jesus sets on earth was not intended to bring peace as the world knows it. It was not intended to bring tolerance, inclusion, acceptance, and accompaniment if sin is associated with any of those ideas. “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” Division because not all men and women on earth will be saved. Not all will accept their invitation to be saved by Christ. Not all will run the race against sin. Not all will set their eyes on Christ. Even as Simeon prophesied to Mary, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against” (Luke 2:34).

Together, these readings at the Holy Mass this Sunday address the most important mission of the memorial sacrifice; that is, to be a remedy for our chronic condition of sin, so that we might have peace in Christ Jesus our Lord.

If you pay attention, you’ll notice that every prayer and every confession being offered during the liturgy; all the way up to the communion rite has to do with one thing; sin. Sin, sin, sin, and Christ as the remedy of sin are all that is being prayed for and confessed. The liturgy speaks of sin so much because it needs us to realize that we are truly sick and are in need of a physician; we are in need of the balm of Gilead, and the reason why the liturgy is demanding that we pray, confess, and beg for the forgiveness of our sins is because worthy reception of the Holy Eucharist sets the soul on fire with Holy love and healing those who consume it. While unworthy reception of the Holy Eucharist sets the soul on fire with judgment and making those who consume it sicker.

A recent Pew Research poll that found that 66% of Catholics in the United States do not believe in the Real Presence of Christ Jesus – the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, yet they are receiving Him at Mass on Sundays. The entire reason why God gave us Christ and His Church, 66% of U.S. Catholics do not believe in. The only thing on earth that can heal our chronic condition of sin, 66% of U.S. Catholics do not believe in. I’m not a big fan of polls, but if even 1% of U.S. Catholics reject the Holy Eucharist demonstrates an utter failure of the teaching office of the Church.

“Jesus said to his disciples: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” That fire does not happen where there is no faith in the Holy Eucharist. The liturgy is dead without faith. A liturgy without faith does not make saints; it does not reorient sinners to Mount Calvary. This teaching on the Holy Eucharist is dividing the Church today. The prophet’s words have fallen on death ears. Most People in our Church are not running the race against sin. Truly, the readings at Mass today have been fulfilled at your hearing. For, the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Eucharist has brought division and death.

For you, O’ faithful Catholics. Have faith! Believe! Run the race against sin and allow the purifying love of God to set you on fire. If you do these things, you will make it to Heaven, but most will not.

This is just one way how the readings at Mass this Sunday connect to the liturgy and how the liturgy is forming us how to live our lives in the world. Be in the world what you have received through the liturgy.