20th Sunday O.T. (C)
FIDELITY AT THE HOUR OF TRIBULATION.
Dear brethren in Christ, today’s Sunday liturgy reminds us to be faithful and persevering at the hour of trial, tribulation and persecution as shown to us by Jeremiah’s example (1st reading); as St. Paul exhorted the Hebrews to persevere in faith weathering the cross and fighting against sin (2nd reading); and as Jesus Himself warned that He came into the world with a mission to save, renew and purify it in a dramatic manner.
- In the 1st reading (Jer 38:4-6.8-10), we read how Jeremiah, after denouncing the frivolity and false hopes of his people, was misunderstood, persecuted and ordered to be put to death and was thrown into the cistern full of mud. In his capacity as a prophet to God’s plan, Jeremiah was “the man of contradiction as Christ will be centuries later. Nevertheless, God never abandons his instruments: Jeremiah was rescued from death.
- In the midst of internal and external difficulties in living our Christian life, St. Paul exhorts the Hebrews (12: 1-4) to “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. For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God. Consider how he endured such opposition from sinners, in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart.”
- The disciple is not greater than the master: he is in no better condition that Christ Himself (Mt 10, 24; Lk 6: 40). The true Christian believer will live his fidelity to Christ in the midst of a cloud of witnesses, who will find it difficult to accept the Christian’s life and example of virtue and holiness.
- The fact that the Christian will surely encounter difficulties in living his faith in the middle of the world was already forewarned by Jesus in the Gospel when He said that He came to bring division on earth.
- In the Gospel (Lk 12:49-53), after stating his burning love (“fire”) for men and a “baptism to carry out” (v. 49), (Jesus calls his death a baptism because from it, He will arise victorious never to die again), Our Lord declared that He did not come to bring peace on earth but division (vv. 51-52). On this latter statement, the Commentary of the Navarre Bible, Gospel of St. Luke states:
- “God has come into the world with a message of peace (cf. Lk 2:14) and reconciliation (cf. Rom 5:11). By resisting, through sin, the redeeming work of Christ, we become his opponents. Injustice and error lead to division and war. “Insofar as men are sinners, the threat of war hangs over them and will so continue until the coming of Christ; but insofar as they can vanquish sin by coming together in charity, violence itself will be vanquished” (Vatican II, Gaudium et spes, 78).
- During his own life on earth, Christ was a sign of contradiction (cf. Lk 2:34). Our Lord is forewarning his disciples about the contention and division which will accompany the spread of the Gospel (cf. Lk 6:20-23; Mt 10:24).”
- Paradoxically, the Heart of Jesus, who is our peace (Eph 2:14) and our reconciliation with God the Father, has come to provoke a clash and rupture between truth and error, good and evil, holiness and sin. This is the mystery of the Cross which could be accepted or rejected by men.
Dear friends, it was prophesied that Jesus Christ Our Lord would be a sign of contradiction (Lk 2, 34): He was, He is and He will be till the end of the world and His followers as well. As we journey in this life as wayfarers towards our heavenly goal, and as we struggle to live faithfully the teachings of Christ in the middle of the world, we will encounter difficulties, undergo tribulations, face contempt, discrimination, persecution and even martyrdom.
As we journey in this life as wayfarers towards our heavenly goal, and as we struggle to live faithfully the teachings of Christ in the middle of the world, we will encounter difficulties, undergo tribulations, face contempt, discrimination and even persecution as Christ, the early Christians, and our persecuted brethren all over the world, especially in the Middle East, did.
We must not forget that Christ has preceded us and He has triumphed through His Passion, Death, and Resurrection. “Upon Him we turn our gaze, being the author and perfecter of faith.” We must call on Him: “Lord, come to our aid” as we pray in the Responsorial Psalm for He will hear our cry, draw us out of the pit of destruction and will pit a new song into our mouth. He will help and deliver us from our enemies! And as Our Lord said, he who perseveres till the end, as faithful followers of Christ, in spite of all the difficulties one may encounter in this world, it is he who will be saved (cf. Mt 10:22). In the end, Jesus will the last word and will Kingdom of Love, Justice and Peace will have no end.
Let us pray daily for all our persecuted brethren all over the world.
A Blessed Sunday and week ahead! Fr. Rolly A., priest of Opus Dei.
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