How do our convictions, hopes measure against the message and life of Jesus?
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
We could not have more timely readings from Scripture than for this Sunday. Not only our country but our world seems mired in conflict and lack of compassion. It is difficult to face another day with the endless news of killings, negative accusations toward others, and people in turmoil. I read a most unlikely blurb from a daily cooking site: “Good morning. Malaise grips me, even under bluebird skies and in low humidity, with mourning doves cooing in the eaves. It may still be hard for some, against the sorrow and anger reflected in the news these past few days, to become excited about cakes and ale.” (NYT Cooking, Aug. 6, 2019)
I pass along also a most disturbing story I read this week. A young man was lamenting that it is impossible to be with his father because they are so opposite in their views about the world today. The pain is that the father continually talks about his views without any regard for another idea or opinion. The son no longer wants to visit his father. He is so distraught that their relationship is on the brink of nonexistence.
These sad stories could probably be multiplied thousands of times. The experience of Jeremiah in the first reading is a classic story of preaching the Word of God with dire consequences for him. He is lowered into the well only to be rescued by a Cushite.
Jesus, as He moves to Jerusalem, is becoming more aware of the direction his words and actions are taking him. He shares His anguish with His followers. He talks of fire. Fire burns and fire destroys. Fire also can bring about new life. It is transformative.
FIDELITY TO THE MISSION
Jesus is realizing the disruption his ministry has caused. Because He is faithful to His Father, what He has to say will not bring peace, but 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. . . .” (Luke 51)
We are uncomfortable with seeing this side of Jesus. We want Him to offer us consolation and comfort. Luke’s Gospel brings us the quintessence of his view of Jesus. Here Luke shows Jesus granting a rare insight into the struggles at the depth of His heart: “What anguish I feel!” We see the profound effect His prayer to the Father has had on the heart of Jesus. We see it in His compassionate healing, outreach to tax collectors, to prostitutes, to lepers, to the despised or defenseless.
Jesus’ most difficult realization is that what began with a base of peace and love resulted in division. Violence was the outcome. However, when the violence was most fierce, Jesus prayed silently from the cross.
Each of us has our own convictions about what we hope to see in our world. The critical question for us is to measure these convictions against the message and life of Jesus. Are we able to say that our convictions come from deep prayer and recollection of the message of Jesus? Would we be able to say that what we want in our world is in fidelity to the mission of Jesus? In other words, do we keep our eye on Jesus in our conversation and convictions?
Sister Rachel Bergschneider, OSB, is a member of the Sisters of St. Benedict of St. Mary Monastery, Rock Island. She has been a teacher, campus minister and pastoral associate, and currently offers retreats and spirituality programs in Peoria.