Jer. 38:4-6,8-10, Ps. 40:2-4,18, Hebrews 12:1-4, Luke 12:49-53“Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division; for henceforth in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three.” (Luke 12:51-52)

Two Sundays ago, we saw how a young man interrupted Jesus asking to settle a property dispute with his brother. Jesus told him to beware of all covetousness and Last Sunday, Jesus goes on to teach us to sell our possessions and give to the poor so that we can have riches in heaven (a place where moth and rust cannot affect our possessions). Today, Jesus is concluding His sermon to the young man and he says: “Do you think I have come to give peace on earth? No! In fact, I have come to cast fire on the earth, I have come to bring division.” What does Jesus mean by this?

1. Do not Allow Family Come between You and God. 

Our penny catechism puts it beautifully. “Are we always to obey our parents? Answer: We are to obey our parents always EXCEPT in anything that is sinful.” The division Jesus is speaking of is having to place God above family demands, especially in things that are sinful. It is better to be disowned and hated by your own family members than to consent to evil just to please them.  No wonder in Luke 14:26-27, Jesus teaches us: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”

Are you facing persecution by your own family members just for the sake of your Christian beliefs? Are you being denied certain privileges by your brother and sisters just because you have refused to compromise your core values? Consider these as your cross and continue to press forward. In essence, Jesus is saying to that young man: “Let go of the property. Seek first God’s kingdom.”

2. Following Christ Demands Huge Sacrifices.

Anyone who is not ready to suffer cannot be a good Christian. Anyone who tries to please everyone cannot be a truthful and righteous person. Our first reading today tells of the story of Jeremiah who like the other prophets suffered greatly in the hands of his enemies for speaking the truth as commanded by God. Thanks to Ebed-melech who spoke on his behalf to the king, Jeremiah would have died of hunger in that cistern. This again points to what Jesus is saying in today’s Gospel. If we are going to be true Christians, we must be prepared for the sufferings that would come to us in the form of rejection from our own family members.

According to St. Ambrose, when Jesus says: “I came to send fire on earth,” it does not mean that “He is the Consumer of good men, but the Author of good-will, who purifies the golden vessels of the Lord’s house and burns up the straw and stubble.” This fire that Jesus brings is what St. Peter was talking about when he said: “In this, you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6-7)

3. Lay Aside Every Yoke of Sin; Run the Race Set Before us.

 As Jesus would say: “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right-hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body goes into hell.” (Matthew 5:29-30). This is exactly what the book of Hebrews is teaching us in today’s second reading. It says we must cast away every weight, and every sin that clings to us so that we can run freely with perseverance in the race to heaven looking to Jesus as our pioneer and perfecter of our faith.

The book of Hebrews says: “Consider him who endured such hostility against himself… in your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” Until you are ready to shed your blood for the sake of Christ, you cannot really lay any claim to fighting temptations.

In conclusion, being a Christian demand a radical approach to God. As much as family is important, serving God leaves no room for compromise. We cannot avoid the divisions that must come or the hatred of others in our determination to seek first God’s kingdom. Like Jeremiah, we shall surely face persecution but everything we suffer is a form of fire that purifies us from impurities just as gold is purified by fire. Our real enemy is not people but sin. As St. Paul would say: “For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12) 

Let us pray: Almighty ever-living God, grant that I may love you in all things and above all things so as to attain your promises which surpass every human desire. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (20th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Bible Study: Jer. 38:4-6,8-10, Ps. 40:2-4,18, Hebrews 12:1-4, Luke 12:49-53).

© Rev. Fr. Evaristus Abu