Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 18
May the Love Which You and I Have for Our God, and the Relationship Which We Have with Our Lord Jesus Christ Consume Each One of Us, So That Our Lives May Be Transformed, So That We May “Persevere in Running the Race That Lies before Us”.
From our Second Reading today from the Letter to the Hebrews, we read, “…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.”
And Jesus says to us today, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!”
Some time ago, I took a course on evangelization sponsored by the Paulist National Catholic Evangelization Association. The course was focused on the different types of outreach approaches to those who have left our family of faith, for whatever reason.
One of the topics that was covered is the division that takes place within the family environment when children decide to reject the faith in which they were raised. And when this happens, there can be great pain in the hearts of the parents, whose lives may be deeply focused on the faith which they truly live in their hearts.
There were many attendees who shared their own pain when speaking about how their son or daughter, when either in high school or college, decided to question everything they were taught, some even to the point of leaving the Church, some even to the point of denying the existence of God!
As a parent myself, I can identify with the anxieties the other parents were feeling, as can probably many of you who are parents and who are reading this meditation today. No wonder Jesus said, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!”
Our Lord knew that there would be divisions not only in the community and in His Church, but even within the intimate family structure itself. And I am sure that He probably shocked His own disciples when He declared that He would cast fire and cause division rather than peace upon the Earth!
For many in the world today, perseverance in “running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus” is something which our society and our culture do not support.
Embracing the Only Truth which truly matters becomes a personal choice which is so easily discarded by many in today’s world, a Truth which a materialistic society has rejected for its own brand of truth – a truth which runs counter to the moral and ethical values which our Judeo-Christian heritage has always been built upon.
And this brand of thinking, which is called relativism, is a concept which has been condemned by several of our popes!
One of the gifts that God gives to each one of us is free will. We have the choice of either choosing to believe and accept the tenets of our faith, or we can choose to reject and ignore them.
Fortunately, in many cases, our children, at some point in their lives, do decide to come full circle. Some event in their lives – whether it be a wedding, baptism or maybe even death – begins the process of turning them around and bringing them back home to the faith in which they were raised.
As parents, all we can do is pray for them and show them, by our holy example, how important the role of faith truly matters in our own daily lives. We do this not by confrontation, but rather by acts of love and kindness.
Let them see the Love of Jesus in us. And let our love become a natural part of that conversion process. For if we do otherwise, we may be standing in the way of allowing the Holy Spirit to work in their hearts in His time.
As parents, when there is division within the household regarding matters of faith, it is oftentimes difficult to accept the fact that we sometimes need to step aside and recognize that each person takes a different faith journey which God has placed before them.
And when one reads from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, from which our First Reading is taken today, we can see this division in a very dramatic way in the house of Israel. When Jeremiah tried to evangelize his people with God’s word, guiding them back to a righteous and holy relationship with their God, many did not wish to listen. Many took offense, so much so that they even tried to murder him by casting him into a cistern, a deep well, where he would eventually die.
Their obstinance was so strong, their fear of what he had to say cut so deeply to the core of who they were as a people and as a nation, many closed a blind eye and a deaf ear to all that God’s prophet had to say – to the point where Jeremiah saw in the nation’s impenitence the sealing of its own doom!
Ultimately, Jerusalem and its Temple were destroyed and the people were driven into exile – what is known in history as the Babylonian Exile.
Hard-heartedness, pride, arrogance – the same vices which ruled the minds, hearts and souls of the Jewish people in Jeremiah’s day – are the same vices which can become our own undoing today, the same vices which can tear away at the very fabric of our relationship with God!
And we recognize that there are many in the world today who have chosen a dark path for themselves. Their use of the gift of free will has taken them far from their love for God, for their lives become focused on new gods –
– gods of materialistic pleasures, self-gratification in all forms of immorality, greed for financial success and power at the expense of someone else’s loss, and this sad list of spiritual darkness continues in the many ways in which man chooses to turn aside from God’s Love!
But as each person is unique and a special creation of God, so too is their faith journey. And we must believe that the Holy Spirit truly understands and is at work within each one of us, as we progress in our own way and in our gradual understanding and acceptance of the gift of faith offered to each of us.
To place any relationship, or anything else for that matter, above God is a form of idolatry. And Jesus challenges His disciples, and He challenges you and me today, to examine Who it is we love first and foremost in our lives. A true disciple loves God above all else and is willing to forsake all for the sake of His Kingdom here on Earth!
And this is the point our Lord was making in today’s Gospel. Do we truly keep our eyes, our minds and our hearts focused on the Only God who can truly hear and answer our prayers – who truly knows and loves each one of us beyond all human reason?
Do we have a love for Jesus that is “on fire” – a thirst that is unquenchable – a yearning for a Truth and a peace which this world cannot give?
Are we willing to open our eyes and our ears to all that God is asking of us, embracing all the tenets of our faith, given to us by the Holy Spirit, as taught to us by the teaching Magisterium of Christ’s Church?
“I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” When we truly and undeniably place God first, then God places all peoples and all things in our lives in proper order for our personal happiness on this side of Heaven.
We heard in our Responsorial today, “Though I am afflicted and poor, yet the LORD thinks of me. You are my help and my deliverer; O my God, hold not back!”
For all those we hold dear to our hearts and who have turned their backs on their faith and their God, we pray in faith and in the sure knowledge that God is our Help and our Deliverer.
And we pray to the Spirit of Truth and Love that He does not hold back His efforts, that He continues to reach out and effect a change in all who have left our family of faith – so that hard-heartedness, pride and arrogance may give way to meekness, humility and selflessness –
– all traits which our Lord finds most pleasing in His children, all traits which foster a loving and intimate relationship with Himself.
And may the love which you and I have for our God, may the faith we have in His Love for us, and may the relationship which we live with our Lord Jesus Christ consume each one of us, so that our lives may be transformed, so that we may “persevere in running the race that lies before us” –
– always keeping our eyes focused on that eternal goal, truly desiring nothing more in this life than spending our eternity with our Lord and with all our loved ones – giving honor and glory to the God who has loved each one of us with an indescribable Love from all eternity!
May God bless you, God love you, and may God always keep you. †
Please Comment, Like and Share, and Suggest to your Facebook friends – to spread the message of God’s Merciful Love.
Por favor Comente, Le Gusta y Comparta, y Sugiera a tus amigos en Facebook – en difundir el mensaje del Misericordioso Amor de Dios.
Scripture for the Day
- “…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.” (Hebrews 12:1)
- “[Jesus said to his disciples], ‘I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!’” (Luke 12:49)
- “So I declare and testify in the Lord that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds; darkened in understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance, because of their hardness of heart, they have become callous and have handed themselves over to licentiousness for the practice of every kind of impurity to excess.” (Ephesians 4:17-19)
- “Though I am afflicted and poor, my Lord keeps me in mind. You are my help and deliverer; my God, do not delay!” (Psalm 40:18)
- “But when the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, he saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the holy Spirit, whom he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior.” (Titus 3:4-6)
- “But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
- “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)
- “‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away.’ The one who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’” (Revelation 21:4-5a)
Prayer for the Day
“O Risen and Eternal Lord,
the Way, the Truth and the Life,
make us Your faithful followers
in the spirit of Your Resurrection.
“Grant that we may be inwardly renewed;
dying to ourselves, being born to new life in the Spirit,
in order that You may live in us
and guide us in our everyday walk of faith.
“May the faith we live and profess serve as a sign
of the transforming power of Your Love.
We humbly pray, use us as Your instruments
for the renewal of hearts, minds and souls.
“Send Your Spirit to enlighten and strengthen us,
so that we may bring the Good News
of Your Life and Love to all Your children,
as we faithfully serve the needs of the Body of Christ.
“This we ask of you, Lord Jesus,
You who live and reign with our Heavenly Father,
together with the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever. Amen.”Anonymous