THEME: THE PRICE OF OUR SALVATION
READINGS: Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10 / Hebrews 12:1-4 / Luke 12:49-53
20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
In today’s gospel reading, our Lord Jesus Christ uses the imageries of fire and baptism to illustrate the price He had to pay for our salvation.
‘I came to cast fire upon the earth’, says Jesus. Fire is often used in scriptures to signify purification. So this statement refers not to the destruction of the earth but to the mission of Jesus to purify the world of sin. Now, as a goldsmith (especially the ancient goldsmith with less protective garment) feels the heat of the fire with which he purifies gold, so Jesus feels the heat (the suffering and death) of the fire by which He purifies our souls. Hence, He says: ‘how I wish it were already over.’
Furthermore, the purified gold has a new value: a value higher than that of the gold ore. And no goldsmith packs the purified gold together with the (unpurified) gold ore. Similarly, when by faith we accept Christ’s purification, our souls assume a new value – a higher value in God’s sight! This makes the mingling of our souls with those yet to be purified a problem. That is why Jesus says: ‘henceforth in a house there will be five divided: three against two and two against three’. A true Christian – one who has maintained the purity of his/her soul – operates on a faith wavelength that makes him/her appear odd to his/her relations or neighbours who operate on a worldly wavelength.
Baptism is from a Greek word which means immersion. To be immersed under water is a sign of death, and coming out of the water signifies resurrection (cf. Rom. 6:3-5). So, once again when Jesus speaks of His impending baptism, He means the suffering, death and resurrection by which He saves us.
Beloved, Jesus wholeheartedly embraced the great and painful demands of the mission of saving us. In this respect, He has become our model in times of challenges and trials. Thus the second reading says: ‘let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God.’
Many souls were inspired and strengthened by Jesus in their moments of challenges and trials (including martyrdom) and today they have become a ‘great cloud of witnesses’ in heaven (Heb. 12:1). With the 2016 Olympics games going on in Brazil, we could see this multitude of heavenly saints like cheering fans in a stadium. May their intercessions be like cheering to spur us onto victory over every challenge or trial which comes our way; and may Christ ultimately welcome us to the medals-awarding ceremony in heaven. Amen!
By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis