Sunday, Aug. 18, is the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C). Mass readings: Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10; Psalm 40:2-4, 18; Hebrews 12:1-4; Luke 12:49-53.
The first reading from the Book of Jeremiah recounts the story of the prophet running afoul of the leading men of Judah. In a difficult situation militarily, they were offended by Jeremiah’s fidelity to the Lord’s message that Jerusalem would be taken by Babylon. Fearing that this prophecy would demoralize the troops, they chose to get rid of him by lowering him into a cistern. Jeremiah, we are told, sitting at the bottom, “sank into the mud.”
The story raises the theme for today’s readings, namely being faithful to the truth even when it seems imprudent. There is little doubt that Jeremiah’s prophecy about the fall of Jerusalem did demoralize his people. We might be sympathetic to the leading men of Judah who, in the name of the welfare of their people, sought to silence God’s man who was preaching doom and gloom. What does one do, then, when the truth presented by God through his prophets or his Church becomes an obstacle to our own vision?
Our Lord answers this question in St. Luke’s Gospel, as he says that he has “come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” The language is passionate. Jesus Christ is not a disinterested bystander to world events. He has specific desires that he will pursue, desires which will at times stand against our best-laid plans. And in case that is unclear, Jesus says that he has not “come to establish peace on earth,” “but rather division.” “Father will be divided against his son … a mother against her daughter.” The truth divides, and we will have to proclaim it despite its seeming imprudence in the eyes of others. ….