Franciscan Friar Fr. Paul Gallagher reflects on the Gospel for the Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, August 14, 2022. The content is edited by Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Anne Marie Lom and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel. To read or download the complete pdf with excerpts for your prayer, please click here: Franciscan Gosepl Reflection August 14 2022. Excerpts are from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner. Photo: from english wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Large_bonfire.jpg; fire public domair
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 earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”
The text for today’s gospel follows upon last week’s gospel. Last week the gospel began with a gentle reminder to trust in God’s compassion. Jesus then turned directly to the disciples with two parables that use the image of servants waiting for their master’s return. The parables emphasize the need to be vigilant with the responsibilities entrusted to the person. The second of the two parables concludes with the admonition that much is expected of those who have received much.
In today’s gospel, Jesus speaks in a way that might be disturbing for some. Often in the gospels, Jesus’ encounters with the disciples begin with the greeting, “Peace.” Therefore, when he says that he has come not to bring peace but division, his statement can seem out of character. Jesus sounds more like the person John the Baptist foretold was coming when he said, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Luke 3:16)
Perhaps an important thing to remember here is Jesus’ own experience. All three synoptic gospels record Jesus’ rejection when he returned home after he began his ministry of preaching and teaching.
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news of him spread throughout the whole region. He taught in their synagogues and was praised by all. He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day… When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But he passed through the midst of them and went away. (Luke 4:16, 28-30)
He came to his native place and taught the people in their synagogue. They were astonished and said, “Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds?
Is he not the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother named Mary and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas? Are not his sisters all with us? Where did this man get all this?” And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and in his own house.”
And he did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith. (Mt 13:54-58)
He departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples. When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands! Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.” (Mk 6:1-4)
Jesus experienced rejection by his extended family unit, his hometown. To be rejected by one’s family was life-threatening. Those relationships formed a network of protection and socialization, and were necessary for survival. People did not go off to the store if they needed supplies or if a distant relative came to visit and there was nothing to offer in hospitality. One went to the neighbor who was also a relative and knocked at their door no matter the hour. Jesus knew what it was like to have those relationships jeopardized because of his choice. His disciples would and did experience similar kinds of rejection due to their choice to become his disciples. Yet he was fully dedicated to his message, and to living by the values of the reign of God no matter how unpopular that might be with family or those in authority.
- What images come to mind when you think of fire?
- Who are the Christian heroes of your life? Are you aware of ways they were not accepted by family or the society in which they lived?
- Have there been times when you received a negative response from others because of the things you said or did in your effort to live an authentic gospel life?
- How does this gospel affect your image of Jesus or what it is to be a disciple?
- Do you know people who seem to be on fire with the gospel?
- How would their community be different without such people? How would you be different?
- Can you take some time to talk to God honesty and frankly about how you hear Jesus’ desire that the world be on fire in today’s gospel?