Sunday: Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time Date: August 14, 2016. Year: C The readings: [Jer. 38:4-6, 8-10; Heb. 12:1-4; Lk. 12:49-53] The message: Christian resistance. Prepared by: Catholic Doors Ministry Total words: 1290
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My friends in Jesus, I repeat the words of Saint Paul, "In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood." [Heb. 12:4] What powerful words worthy of reflection!
In our Christian lives, we have to accept what is spiritual and pleasing to God, rejecting what is sinful and offensive to Him. Those who renounce God and His existence, they adopt sin because their actions are sinful and offensive to God. Those who do not want to hear anything about the Catholic faith through which the grace of God flows for the salvation of mankind, they also adopt sin. Those who persecute the children of God because of their faith, they too are feeding on sin. Those who intimidate the pious faithful who adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, their opposition to what is holy is a sign that they themselves cannot be holy.
All of these actions, while they are crosses that we must bear as Christians, they are nothing compared to the crosses that were carried by those who spilled their blood for Christ. Every year, it comes to our attention that dozen of priests, brothers, sisters, seminarians, teachers and other Catholics are murdered because of their faith in Christ. These martyrs reflect only a small percentage of the many other Catholics who are murdered in a number of countries, some nations where the Catholic faith is but a minority of the population. While the lives of many of the faithful pass by unnoticed in this world's book of Catholic martyrs, in Heaven, these martyrs are glorified for having followed in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus. Their names shall never be forgotten.
During today's First Reading, we heard how Jeremiah was mistreated by the king and his officials. These persons of authority did not appreciate hearing the Word of God that was being prophesied through the mouth of Jeremiah. While it cannot be denied that Jeremiah was delivering bad news, such was being done in obedience and servitude to God. In truth, it was not Jeremiah who was speaking but rather it was God who was speaking through Jeremiah. As such, when the king and his officials rejected what they heard, they did not reject Jeremiah, they were rejecting God Himself. When they mistreated Jeremiah by throwing him in the cistern of Malchiah, their actions were directed towards God. As Jesus taught, "Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me." [Mt. 25:40]
The Holy Bible tells us that Jeremiah, like many of the prophets of the Old Testament, was frequently persecuted during his lifetime. Being human as we are, he did not appreciate it and he often feared for his life. Caught between fearing God and the obligation to serve Him versus wanting to run away from the calling of a prophet, Jeremiah continuously resisted his human nature by submitting himself to God in full obedience. He served God until the end.
During today's Second Reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, Saint Paul reminds us that we as Christians must resist sin. Why? It is because, that we may not grow weary or lose heart, Jesus endured great hostility against himself from sinners. In our struggle against sin, none of us have resisted to the point of shedding our blood on the cross as Jesus has endured, disregarding its shame. Therefore, we must persevere and run the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus as the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.
To run the race means to persevere in our Catholic faith to the end of our lives on earth. To persevere in our faith means that during our lives, we must receive all the Church Sacraments for which we qualify. This includes receiving on a regular basis the Sacrament of Confession and the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist while in a state of grace. Jesus said, "Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you." "Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them." [Jn. 6:54, 56] Without the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, we do not have the life of Christ in us.
To persevere in our living faith means to resist those who tell us it is not necessary to go to Confession on a regular basis or that it is not necessary to receive the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist on a daily basis. To persevere in our living faith means to go against the modern worldly trends that oppose the spiritual teachings of Jesus that have been handed down through the Holy Catholic Church that He has instituted on earth.
During today's reading from the Gospel of Luke, we heard Jesus say, "I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!" [Lk. 12:49] Fire is symbolic of the Holy Spirit [Acts 2:3] and His actions of being a consuming fire [Heb. 12:19] as God. The ministry of Jesus on earth included preparing the way for the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier. The ministry of the Holy Spirit is to guide and teach us in all the truth, [Jn. 16:13] to sanctify us and to test our faith by fire. [1 Pet. 1:7]
The process of sanctifying the world through the institution of the invisible Kingdom of God on earth that is seen through the visible Body of Christ is one that creates division. Household will be divided, three against two and two against three. Why is it so? It is because some will resist the purifying fire of the Holy Spirit, choosing worldly fame, the pleasures of the flesh and wealth. Some will choose to walk in the light while others will prefer to walk through "the darkest valley." [Ps. 23:4]
The Christian's resistance against sin, all that is evil, is an ongoing inner battle. Sharing his thoughts on this inner conflict, Saint Paul said, "I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate." [Rom. 7:15, 19]
Examples of the inner conflict may involve making a resolution not to swear anymore. Yet, when getting upset, the person instantly swears again. It may include a self-promise to spend more time with one's children as a loving parent but when other things come up, such things are placed first. It may involve making a resolution to no longer miss the celebration of the Holy Mass on Sundays. But when the time comes to get out of bed on Sunday morning, that is a different story. These and many more are examples of the inner battle. While we want to be good and spiritual in all our actions, our human nature interferes and draws us towards the worldly ways. As such, we must constantly be on the alert and strengthen our wills by resisting what is not Christian.
This week, to preserve our salvation and the inheritance of the eternal Kingdom that awaits us through the grace of God, let us reflect upon our status when it comes to "Christian resistance." Let us ask ourselves, are we resisting sin? Are we continuously resisting what offends God? Are we living holy lives as God has called us to do? If we fall short in these, let us ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen us in our inner conflict. And while doing so, let us pray for one another so we may all enjoy the strength that is necessary to be children of God who are shining lights.
"The officials said to the king, 'This man ought to be put to death, because he is discouraging the soldiers who are left in this city, and all the people, by speaking such words to them. For this man is not seeking the welfare of his people, but their harm.'
King Zedekiah said, 'Here he is; he is in your hands; for the king is powerless against you.'
So they took Jeremiah and threw him into the cistern of Malchiah, the king's son, which was in the court of the guard, letting Jeremiah down by ropes. Now there was no water in the cistern, but only mud, and Jeremiah sand in the mud.
So Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, an officer in the king's house, left the king's house and spoke to the king, 'My lord king, these men have acted wickedly in all they did to the prophet Jeremiah by throwing him into the cistern to die there of hunger, for there is no bread left in the city.' Then the king commanded Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, 'Take three men with you from here, and pull the prophet Jeremiah up from the cistern before he dies.'" [Jer. 38:4-6, 8-10]
"Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider Jesus who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood." [Heb. 12:1-4]
"Jesus said to his disciples: 'I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!
Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law." [Lk. 12:49-53]