Follow Christ, and lead others to Him
Living the Word / Kim Padan
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time/Aug. 14
Jeremiah 38:4-6,8-10; Psalm 40:2,3,4,18; Hebrews 12:1-4; Luke 12:49-53
Looking at the readings for this weekend, I am reminded of how difficult it can be to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, but also how comforted I am to know He makes firm my steps.
In the first reading, we hear that some people wanted the prophet Jeremiah to be put to death. Jeremiah had been trying to warn the Hebrews of the coming destruction of the Temple, but they didn’t want to listen. How frightening was it for Jeremiah to be lowered into that cistern? How long was he down there? This wasn’t the first time Jeremiah’s prophetic message was ignored and not the first time people wanted him dead. In fact, much of Jeremiah’s life was marked by misunderstanding, rejection, and persecution.
At times when we read the words of Jeremiah, we hear his angst and exhaustion. It seems he often did not like his role as a prophet, yet he couldn’t ignore his calling. “I say I will not mention him, I will no longer speak his name. But then it is as if a fire is burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding back, I cannot!” (Jeremiah 20:9) Despite his difficulties, Jeremiah trusted in the Lord, and in today’s reading Jeremiah’s life was spared.
In the Gospel passage, Jesus makes a shocking statement that is difficult to accept: “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” (Luke 12:51) At first glance, this makes no sense. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. He tells us to love our enemies. So what is this division about?
RUNNING THE RACE
We need look no further than contemporary headlines, popular entertainment, and social media. Being a faithful disciple of Jesus means that many of our beliefs, words, and actions will be countercultural. Ideas that were once held as widely acceptable are now labeled by many as hateful. The decision to attend Sunday Mass, let alone during the week, seems odd or unnecessary to some people even in our own families. The choice not to engage in vulgar language or gossip may raise eyebrows. Of course, we are called to love one another, but our first love must always be Christ Himself. He wants us to be ablaze with His love, to be wholly transformed in Him.
Being a faithful disciple of Jesus means that many of our beliefs, words, and actions will be countercultural.
Living out our faith and sharing that faith openly with others is certainly a challenge. Will we decide to follow Christ every day and risk being thrown in the cistern? I ask myself often if I have the fortitude to engage a loved one in sensitive but important conversations, as Jeremiah did. The Catechism defines fortitude as “the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good.” (CCC 1808)
The second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews encourages us to “persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus. . . .” The author knew, undoubtedly from personal experience, that the path of discipleship is difficult but rewarding beyond compare. When we do keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, especially in hard times, people will notice. There will always be people who think us odd, but others may have a curiosity about our lives that marks the beginning of a journey to Christ.
And that’s the goal. Follow Christ and lead others to Him. Like the psalmist, we can acclaim, “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.”
Kim Padan is a member of St. Paul Parish, Danville. She is the immediate past president of the Peoria Diocesan Council of Catholic Women and chairs the Spirituality Commission for the National Council of Catholic Women. She also serves as the formation director for the Mary Magdalene Chapter of Lay Dominicans, based in West Lafayette, Indiana.