Homily 20th Sunday Year C (Lk 12: 49-53)
In this month of August, especially in Japan where we support a lot of movements to create worldly peace, it seems odd that today we have to hear Jesus said “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, but rather division!” How shall we understand these strong words of Jesus? Is Jesus against peace? Is Jesus not a peaceful person? The Gospel of Luke clearly portrays Jesus as a man of peace throughout its whole contents. Thus, the image of Jesus in Luke’s Gospel is not the image of a person who hates peace, nor a creator of war.
The symbol used in Jesus’ teaching to illustrate the division he mentioned was “fire”. The biblical symbolism of fire is often used to refer to the meaning of judgement, or to the coming of the last days, but also to the meaning of purification. In today’s gospel, Jesus combined the symbolism of fire with baptism. Thus, he was referring to the meaning of fire as the symbol for purification. Those who want to follow Jesus must choose single-mindedly the path Jesus taught us to take. We heard the similar message in the verse for Alleluia which said ‘My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord; I know them, and they follow me.’ For us to become the true followers of Jesus, we have to instinctively know and really listen to His voice among other different voices. This is the purification Jesus wanted for us to experience.
When we hear so many different voices in our daily lives, offering us so many paths to choose, putting us continuously in different intersections of our lives, we are forced to live with an unending process of choosing the right path. However, we have to remember that we are not supposed to choose the right path for us, but the right path to become closer to Jesus in his own path. By choosing this path we are saying no to other paths we encountered in those intersections of our lives. And this cutting loose, this letting go of the other options, the other paths offered to us, can create so many worries, so many questions, so many turmoil in our own hearts. We wonder what will happen to us if we cut our ties with the paths of this world and move to the path God offers us through Jesus? Will we be able to walk in this path of God while our heart is still attached to the paths of this world? The ever lasting restless of hearts.
Let us learn from the prophet Jeremiah in the first reading. He chose to walk the path God gave to him. But that means he had to deliver the warning to the King Zedekiah about the looming attack which will cause the fall of the Israelites who became far away from God. However, the Israelites, exemplified here by the princes, found it difficult to accept that they can be beaten by another tribes. Thus, they threw Jeremiah in the cistern, letting him sink in the mud. But Jeremiah did not despair. The Psalm 40 “The LORD heard my cry. He drew me out of the pit of destruction, out of the mud of the swamp” reveals the conviction of Jeremiah that God will help those who take the path leading to God. And then came Ebed-Melech to help him getting out of that pit. Jeremiah did not only take the right path of God, he also succeeds to build the courage to stay in that path.
When we let go of the paths of this world, then we know we are gaining the path of Jesus. Yes, we may have to endure oppositions from this world. But those oppositions are nothing compared to the joy waiting for us at the end of that path.
by Fr. Aloysius Firmansyah, S,J.