August 18, 2019
(20th Sunday Ordinary Time, C)
And so they took Jeremiah and threw him into the cistern of Prince Malchiah, which was in the quarters of the guard, letting him down with ropes. There was no water in the cistern, only mud, and Jeremiah sank into the mud. Jer_38:4-6,8-10
In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood. 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.” Lk_12:49-53
As we crawl across the soft carpets of life and faith, we find that every once in a while, we have to cross a field of sandpaper. And if we are – a knee, or a knuckle, or a toe, or a believer; the one thing we know about crawling across sandpaper, is that it hurts!
Between Jeremiah being thrown into a cistern, Paul talking about resisting sin to the point of shedding blood, and Jesus’ talk about the cost of discipleship being division within families, today’s Scriptures could surely be described as that ‘field of sandpaper,’ because it’s not the soft, cushy talk, we like to hear, about peace, and lambs, and pearly gates, and nets full of fish.
Instead, Jesus, today uses the metaphor of Fire, Fire, which could actually be – even more painful than sandpaper.
It just makes us wonder, as the disciples probably did: “Isn’t this all a little Contradictory?” On the one hand, we’re hearing about peace and love, and on the other hand there’s fire and division.
And you know what?
If we go all the way back to a very young Jesus. A Jesus whose mother presented Him at the Temple in Jerusalem for consecration as a ‘first-born Son,’ we might remember Mary’s encounter with a holy man by the name of Simeon. And this Simeon, with the baby Jesus in his arms, left Mary with a prophesy.
He said: “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted, so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” Lk 2:34
You see, Jesus is the carpet
AND the sandpaper.
He’s the soft woolen blanket
AND the blinding, revealing light.
He is the Fire and the Water,
who burns away our sins
and cleanses us from the soot . . .
IF, WE let Him!
And THERE’s the rub!
It’s up to us – to let Him!
In the days of Jeremiah the Prophet, many of the people were so comfortable, living in their sin, and separated from God, that they couldn’t even bear to listen to Jeremiah’s prompts to change, even though that change was for their own good.
Can’t you just hear their grumbling . . .
“Who is HE to tell ME what to do! It’s MY life! It’s MY gas pedal! It’s MY pregnancy! It’s MY gun! And I really don’t like sandpaper or fire anyway; so I’ll throw him in a pit, or hang Him on a cross, and be done with it.”
You see, beloved, with the persistence of St. Paul’s long distance runner, Jeremiah would not give up on his countrymen, nor on his mission to save them, because his Love for both them, and for God – was so deep. His heart was on fire with that love, just like Jesus!
And he would endure the taunting and the name-calling, the persecution and the suffering, the family dissensions and even death, rather than giving up on that Love, that call to righteousness, that contradiction of carpet and sandpaper, of fire and water.
In our Baptisms, we have both the symbols of Water and Fire to remind us of those Contradictions in Life.
Water, that brings Life to our bodies and Death to our sins.
– Water, that can, just as well, bring Death to our bodies but Joy to our souls – in all of it’s (water’s) natural beauty.
– Water, that has the Power to cut through steel and the Gentleness to wash a baby.
And then there’s Fire. Fire a contradiction, in itself, to Water.
– Fire that destroys and Fire that enlightens.
– Fire that warms and Fire that burns.
– Fire that purifies and Fire that invigorates
Jesus said that He “came to set the earth on fire.”
And there again is that Contradiction. THERE’s the Fire that purifies us from our sins, like Gold in a furnace. And there’s the Fire that invigorates us with His Love in our hearts:
– just like the love of Jeremiah,
– just like the fire of Mary and the Apostles at Pentecost,
– just like the love of that “cloud of witnesses,” of our martyred saints,
– and just like us, beloved, every time WE CHOOSE:
Love over revenge, Love over hatred, and Love over prejudice.
By our baptisms and by this Baptism of Jesus, we know, that:
Love is patient, and Love is kind.
Love is giving, and Love is forgiving.
Love is carpet and Love is sandpaper.
Love is fire, and Love is water.
And Love, brothers and sisters,
Love IS Jesus!
And so we pray: Come Holy Spirit. Fill the hearts of your faithful. Enkindle in us the Fire of your Love. Send forth your Spirit, and we shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.
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