August 14, 2022
(20th Sunday Ordinary Time, C)
A court official, went there from the palace and said to him (King Zedekiah): “My lord king, these men have been at fault in all they have done to the prophet Jeremiah, casting him into the cistern. He will die of famine on the spot, for there is no more food in the city.” Jer_38:4-6,8-10
Brothers and sisters: Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. Heb_12:1-4
Jesus said to his disciples: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three;” Lk_12:49-53
“May the Lord bless you and keep you. May His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May He look upon you with kindness and give you His peace.”
This blessing, which comes from the 6th Chapter of the Book of Numbers, given to Aaron by his brother Moses, was taken up by St. Francis of Assisi and has become the standard blessing prayer of all Franciscans.
Within the period of one day, brothers and sisters, to how many people do we say the words, “God bless you” (without it following a sneeze)? You know, there should always be AT LEAST one person to whom we give a blessing, every day; be it our spouse, our brothers or sisters, our children, or even, and best yet, a total stranger: people we meet at the store, at work, or just walking the dog . . .
“God bless you!”
And, if a day goes by without our verbally blessing another person, we might just ask ourselves, “Why?” Am I embarrassed by my faith? Am I worried about “their” response? Will I be persecuted because of those words? Will they still like me?
And if our response is “yes” to any of those questions, then maybe we need to be asking ourselves, if we really have any Faith at all within us. Are we just robotically coming to Mass, to Church, without even knowing why? Or, are we simply in some heavy-duty need of a good Spiritual Retreat?
Are we not totally enraptured by God’s immense LOVE for us?
Are we not in complete AWE of the fact that God loves us so incredibly much that he stepped out of Himself to take on our flesh in the incarnation, in order to become one of us, in order to prove His love for us, even to the extreme of enduring horrendous suffering and death, in order to show us our Hope for eternal life in the resurrection, in order to teach us the true meaning of Love!
Are we not SO filled with Joy over that Love, that it’s not bubbling over in our love and caring for one another, and in our Hope for them, as well?
“God bless you – with all His goodness,”
– whether you know it, or not,
– whether you believe it, or not,
– whether you hate me for it, or not,
“God bless YOU!”
Are our hearts not blazing on fire with this Love, with God’s grace, in every breath we take? The Fire of the Holy Spirit should be burning within us, brothers and sisters. God’s Love and Joy pouring out into the world – through us.
And yet, we’re all well aware of the ugliness out there in our world too. The wars, the injustice, the suffering, the innocent deaths, the greed, the immorality, the lies . . . the SIN.
You know, that ugliness, that sin has been around ever since the very beginning of time as we know it. From Adam and Eve to Cain and Abel, from Sodom and Gomorrah to maybe even our own homes.
Sin is pervasive.
And it will likely never go away, unless we take a stand, like Jeremiah and all the prophets, to show one another God’s love, to bless one another with the Joy of God’s salvation that Jesus won for all of us. You see, there is always – Hope for everyone to turn away from sin and to believe in the Gospel of Life and Hope and Joy.
The author of the Book of Hebrews encourages the members of the early Churches, and us, today, to stand firm in our Faith, to “persevere in running the race with our eyes fixed on Jesus,” to keep ourselves free from sin, and to open our hearts to the Joy of Jesus, despite all the opposition we feel and see in our world.
The Prophet Jeremiah would be one of the many, throughout the ages, who would attest to that opposition through his own suffering. The opposition of evil against good, of rebellion against obedience, of hatred against love, of sin against purity, and, as Jesus warns us today, even of family members against one another. We might even see that contention in our own families, between ourselves and some of our closest kin, who refuse to believe in Jesus.
And of course, we all know that Satan’s greatest offensive against God’s awesome gift of free will is division. By our own free will, we can choose selfishness – over life. We can choose debt – over solvency. We can choose hatred – over forgiveness. We can choose apathy – over advocacy for good against evil.
And yet, we can also choose Mercy and Love – over revenge and division.
Jesus is not calling us today to be a cause for further division, but He IS calling us to our own careful discernment of righteousness over sinfulness. To stand firm in the Truth of our Faith, against the evil of Lies. And to patiently, courageously and joyfully share that Faith, that Love of God, that Joy of Jesus, in every word, and smile, and hope we give to others.
It may be as difficult as holding our tempers and opinions at a belligerent comment. And it may be as simple as sharing a 3-word Gesture: “God Bless you!”
Can we all try that with one person sitting next to us! . . . “God Bless you!”
There we go! You see, that wasn’t really so hard. And now we’re ready to share it with the world. I think, if we do, we just might be surprised at the Joy, that the response we get in return, will bring!
Almost as awesome as our Blessed Sacrament!
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