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 two imageries to illustrate the price He had to pay for our salvation.
They are the imageries of fire and baptism.
“I came to cast fire upon the earth”, says Jesus (Luke 12:49). 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 feels the heat of the fire with which he purifies gold, so Jesus felt 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” (Luke 12:49). That Jesus felt the heat of the fire of our salvation was very evident in His agony in the garden, when He prayed: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me” (Matt. 26:39; RSV). Fortunately, as we know very well, Jesus did not give up, for He continued with His prayer: “Father … nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matt. 26:39; RSV). Then, He embraced His arrest, torture, carrying of the cross, crucifixion and death. He persevered to the very end.
Baptism is the second imagery Jesus uses to explain the price He had to pay for our salvation. To save us, Jesus had to suffer, die and arise and this is what Baptism signifies. Thus, St. Paul writes:
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore, we have been buried with Him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we will certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His (Rom. 6:3-5; NRSV).
So, once again when Jesus speaks of His impending baptism, He means the suffering, death and resurrection by which He saves us.
CARRYING OUR CROSS
Beloved, as we know, whereas a parent may do his/her best to provide for the education of his/her child, the latter is expected to study well in order to pass the examinations. Similarly, whereas the price Jesus has paid for our salvation is sufficient, we are expected to carry our cross. Hence, He says to us: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). In today’s gospel reading, for instance, Jesus mentions the cross which some people may have to carry when they accept Him as the Saviour. He says: “in a house there will be five divided: three against two and two against three”. This refers to a misunderstanding which could arise in a situation whereby one’s family is not Christian whereas one has decided to accept Jesus as his/her Saviour. A true Christian – one who maintains the purity of his/her soul – operates on a faith wavelength that makes him/her appear odd to his/her relations who operate on a worldly wavelength. Beloved, probably this is not the cross we are carrying at the moment. Our cross or trial may be the loss of a dear one, a job, a failing business, a serious marriage difficulty or some other form of difficulty.
When our cross or trial seems to weigh too much on us, let us still look up to Jesus, our Saviour and perfect model. Let us not give up, but rather persevere as He did. Thus, the Letter to the Hebrews encourages us: “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” (Heb. 12:1-4; second reading).
Beloved, there were many in the past who had heavy crosses to carry. Some of them, for instance, accepted to die for the sake of their faith in Jesus Christ. Such souls were inspired and strengthened by Jesus in their moments of challenges and trials. Today, they are in heaven and the Letter to Hebrews refers to them as a great “cloud of witnesses” in heaven (Heb. 12:1).
Beloved, this great cloud of witnesses in heaven should, in turn, inspire us to “run with perseverance the race that is set before us”. As we run the race of life, this great host of the saints in heaven are like the great cheering fans in a stadium. May their intercession be like cheers to spur us onto victory over every challenge or trial which comes our way.
Finally, may Christ ultimately welcome us to the medal-awarding ceremony in heaven. Amen!
By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis