Father Valan Arockiaswamy

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HOMILIES

Close Dear Audience,
For better understanding of the spiritual message behind this homily I kindly remind you to first read and contemplate the biblical texts before reading or listening to my preaching - a human reflection on the Word of God!

Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C)

Aug 14, 2022 Views 67 Listen 1 Downloads 0
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First Reading

A reading from the Book of the Prophet 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.

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.

Responsorial Psalm

Psalms of David (40:2, 3, 4, 18)


(R) Lord, come to my aid!

I have waited, waited for the Lord, and he stooped toward me. (R)

The Lord heard my cry. He drew me out of the pit of destruction, out of the mud of the swamp; he set my feet upon a crag; he made firm my steps. (R)

And he put a new song into my mouth, a hymn to our God. Many shall look on in awe and trust in the Lord. (R)

Though I am afflicted and poor, yet the Lord thinks of me. You are my help and my deliverer; O my God, hold not back! (R)

Second Reading

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the 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 lost heart. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.

Gospel

A reading from the holy Gospel according to 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."

(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
(R) Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

Homily

A man and his wife were quarrelling one morning. The wife said, "Outside the house, you behave as if you are a lion, and inside the house you are just like a mouse." The husband said, "That's absolutely wrong. I am not a mouse, I am a mousetrap. You are a mouse. Mousetraps don't run after mice to catch them. The mice themselves come and get caught, and that's how it happened with us."

Sometimes arguments and disagreements over small things lead to division and discord in our families. We argue. We fight. We yell and scream at one another. And then in one way or another, we learn to forgive and reconcile for the sake of peace. Far from offering comfort, Jesus in today's gospel warns us that He has come to set the earth on fire and cause division, splitting families apart. This is one of the most shocking declarations that Jesus made regarding Himself during His ministry.

Why did Jesus say that He has "come to set the earth on fire"? Fire is mentioned many times in the Bible, and it has been associated with God and His action in the world and in the lives of His people. However, it can have many different meanings depending on the context. For instance, fire is often used to describe the power and presence of God. Sometimes it is used as a metaphor for God's wrath and judgment. Fire is also a common symbol for purification and cleansing. For example, Prophet Malachi (3:2) uses fire to describe God's purifying love for us.

So, different scholars have interpreted Jesus' declaration "I have come to set the earth on fire" in different ways. Some scholars suggest that Jesus was talking about the judgment that He would bring on earth. Some are of the opinion that Jesus was referring to the baptism of fire that John the Baptist had prophesied when he said that Jesus would baptize "with the Holy Spirit and fire", Luke (3:16). Some others view that the fire which Jesus longed to cast upon the earth was probably in reference to His gospel message. The core message of the gospel is that God has loved us from the beginning of time, and He proves His love for us by giving us the best He has to offer - His only begotten Son to die for us, John (3:16).

I too believe that Jesus was talking about His mission to ignite the fire of God's love in His disciples, and then in turn enable them to be on fire themselves, ablaze with love for God and others on earth. Jesus wished to set God's burning love within the hearts of his disciples and through that love renew and transform the face of the earth. At the same time, Jesus also spoke of the pain and suffering with which He would be baptized. He was in great anguish because He knew that the flame of God's love will be lit and His mission will be accomplished through His suffering and death on the Cross.

What did Jesus mean when He said that He has "come not to bring peace to the earth but rather division"? Jesus' words seem to contradict the Old Testament prophecies and Jesus' own proclamation of Himself. For instance, more than seven hundred years before Jesus was born, the prophet Isaiah had foretold that the Messiah would be a "Prince of Peace", Isaiah (9:5). When the angels announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds they declared, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace for those He favors", Luke (2:14).

During His earthly ministry Jesus instructed His disciples to preach as they went about and wish peace on any house that was worthy. After forgiving and curing the sick, Jesus gave them His peace. After His resurrection, Jesus often greeted His disciples with peace. And the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians (2:17) that Jesus came and preached peace to those who were far off, meaning the "Gentiles", and to those who were near, meaning the "Jews".

To the Colossians (1:20), Paul wrote that Jesus made peace through His blood, shed on the cross. And the apostles went about preaching the peace of Jesus Christ, Acts (10:36). So, if all these references in the scriptures portray Jesus as the source and promoter of peace, why did He then say that He has come not to establish peace, but to cause division and disunity? In Matthew's gospel, (10:34), Jesus moreover said, "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth: it is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword."

"Sword" in this context does not imply bloodshed. It is rather a reference to the Word of God which the writer to the letter to the Hebrews says, is "sharper than any double-edged sword", that "penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart", Hebrews (4:12). That's to say, the Word of God has the power to penetrate to the heart of a person and cause a change in the person's life. Yes. The Word of God can inspire us to transform in such a way as to make us challenge the evil around us which then can cause misunderstandings, friction, division and problems in our families. It is because in our own family, there are people who may not believe in God and His promises; people who may not follow God's commandments; people who may not take the Bible seriously and those who may not accept or spread the Truth. Therefore, contradictions arise not because Jesus came into the world to bring division, discord, contention and war, but because division and contradictions arise inevitably from His coming and because of His message of love and grace.

What are the lessons Luke wants us learn from his gospel today?

  • At our baptism, "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us", Romans (5:5). In other words, when we are baptized into Christ Jesus, the Holy Spirit kindles the fire of God's love in our hearts. It is, therefore, important to keep the fire of God's love burning, and, if need be, rekindle the fire of our passion and love for Christ and all the people around us despite suffering, troubles, afflictions and hardships.
  • As we hear and read His Word, we will learn and know for a fact that if we "hold fast the confession of our faith without wavering, for He who promised is faithful", Hebrews (10:23), true peace is possible despite all odds particularly in our own families.

It is a great comfort to know that we do not lose out when we follow God and keep our eyes on Him.

(P) Amen.

God Bless You!

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