Aug. 14th Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time c

Introduction

Christ mentions division in the gospel, not to say we should be divisive but warn that in serving God we’ll experience attack from the world. The prophet Jeremiah was thrown in the well and Christ was crucified for witnessing to God. Similarly, we must be prepared to suffer even the pain caused by unbelievers in our own household. Lets confess any apology for being Christian.

Homily

During the Second world war, people rejoiced when the allies won the victory in Europe. For if Hitler had triumphed we cannot even imagine what our world would be like now. Though we deplore war sometimes people have to fight for what is right. And its in that sense that we have the words of Christ in today’s gospel: “I have come not to bring peace on earth but division”. This seems a hard saying, yet it gets to the heart of faith. Christ is not saying division is good but that if we follow him we may meet with opposition even from our own family. But we must continue to spread his love and faith despite opposition. Jeremiah continued his fiery preaching though it led him into the well up to his neck. Honoring God always involved suffering, but as Paul says in the second reading, we must keep on running the race through the pain. For the war between good and evil takes no prisoners.

In these days of indifference, even opposition, to Christian faith, Christ’s words ring a bell. There are always fresh dangers in being his followers, so we need to be united in the great struggle. He could be addressing us today. For as in Jeremiah or Christ’s day, people whose evil are exposed won’t tolerate our witness. They may even behave aggressively towards us. A holy person said to me recently that the day may be coming in Ireland when people will be persecuted, even killed, for the faith again. Jesus makes no secret of the fact that bearers of God’s Word face ridicule and rejection even from their own. But He says this only to encourage us to be faithful as He was.

Still today the main obstacle to heroic faith is fear of standing out. This can hinder us from being the saints we want to be. I’m sure all of us can think of situations in our life when fear of being ridiculed or bullied prevented us from doing what we knew to be right. The Germans prosecuted for the holocaust had that defence; they filled Hitler’s gas chambers out of fear of bullying superiors. But the war tribunal said that isn’t a good defence. There’s a higher law we must obey even at risk of death.

I think being Christian today means making a similar choice for God no matter what. Maybe in the company we keep we’ll lose friends if we insist on going to mass. Maybe we’ll lose pals if we refuse to take part in idle gossip that drags others through the mud. Maybe we dare not say no to a drink or drug culture. But remember for evil to triumph all that’s needed is for good people to remain silent. Yeats of our age says: “the best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity”. Its easy to go with the secularist tide. The smirks and sneers of unbelievers can con us into abandoning or watering down our commitment. But Christ came so that the fire of God’s salvation would burn away all evil. We can only help him in this work if we’re confident and fearless in his service, remembering His words: “fear not I’m with you”. In that surety lets stand up and be counted. So that when we have completed our earthly journey, he’ll wont disown, but claim us as one of his own before the father forever and ever, amen. So as God’s own, fighting the good fight gently through every suffering, let’s profess our faith.

Prayers of the Faithful

And as God’s people lets pray for our and the world’s peace..

For our holy father and the leaders of the church throughout the world that they may not be afraid to witness to Christ and what’s right regardless of ridicule or consequences for themselves…

For civil leaders that they may not make it more difficult for the church to witness to the Lord and what’s right..

For our youth that they may be prepared to stand for Christ, as they promised to do at confirmation, to be strong and perfect Christians and workers by his grace for a gentle peaceful world.

For ourselves that in our homes and work places, we may pass on the faith courageously and faithfully, even in the face of opposition, ridicule and apostasy from some of our own..

For the sick, that through our care and love they may know the love of God in their lives and find healing and comfort..

For the dying, that through our great continuing charitable prayers on their behalf they may be freed from darkness and reach the light of Christ forever in heaven..

And we ask all these our prayers through Christ who suffered the cross for what was right and to set us free to do the same, amen.

Reflection

You may have seen that film The Agony And The Ecstasy about the great Michelangelo. He spent endless hours on his back above the Sistine Chapel painting the famous frescos, paint dripping on his face, aching with pain and constant criticism from enemies. Yet the result is stunning. It was restored recently and the brilliant colors shone again. Nothing great is ever achieved without suffering. We’re all masterpieces for Christ, and keeping the faith is also a great suffering struggle. But its worth it in final ecstasy of union with God and the difference we will have made by our gentle witness to his saving truth and light. Lets pray we’ll have the courage to do that, as our ancestors did, even in the face of home based forces of ridicule..Hail Mary

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