How do we follow, live out the will of God?
By: By Sister Rachel Bergschneider, OSB
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Aug. 18
Jeremiah 38:4-6,8-10; Psalm 40:2,3,4,18; Hebrews 12:1-4; Luke 12:49-53
“I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! . . . Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” (Luke 12:49, 51)
These are not exactly the words and sentiments one would like to hear from Jesus. What is he up to? Luke, in this passage, gives us a dose of the challenging message of Jesus. It is not one of comfort and consolation. It is the words of Jesus that cut to the heart of his message and mission.
Prophets have long been an integral part of the Judean and Christian Scriptures. Repeatedly we learn that a prophet in the Old Testament was one who was the conduit for surfacing the will of God for various people, whether it be kings or people of faith. The prophet was one who had been gifted with special knowing of the “things of God.” People sought out or were expected to listen to the prophet in leading a life of faith.
Jeremiah was such a prophet. The message he proclaimed was not always popular with those in authority. In his courage, Jeremiah challenged the authority to a reform that reflected the will of God. For this he was condemned to suffer.
Likewise, we know from the life of Jesus that his message was not always popular. Jesus, as a prophet, was condemned to suffering and eventually to death. The twofold description of a prophet as speaking the will of God and the suffering that came with the message became the crux of the Christian Scriptures.
We, as followers of Jesus, are called to the same way of life. We are challenged to listen to the message of Jesus and, in the hearing of it, put ourselves in the position of accepting whatever comes of it. Coming to know the will of God is almost never done in isolation. We need prophets — those who, in our midst, are blessed to discern the ways of the Lord and can companion us in that journey of knowing God’s will.
Jesus did not have a new agenda in his message; he was not interested in giving new information about the laws and practices of the people. His was a mission of making clear the importance of relationship. Who is God in our life? How are we to live with one another? How are we to treat one another? How are we to understand the passionate love God has for us if we do not display that love to each other? Ultimately, how do we as the People of God live out the will of God?
Jesus’ challenging message brings with it discomfort, even division between the most intimate of relationships. Families may be separated because, for Jesus, the most important choices we make are choices of following and living the message of Jesus. Nothing else, not even family, is as important.
This message truly cuts to the quick. It is clear that we all need true prophets in our lives to keep our priorities in order.
Sister Rachel Bergschneider, OSB, is a member of the Sisters of St. Benedict of St. Mary Monastery in Rock Island. She serves as pastoral associate at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Peoria Heights.