A reflection for the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time. First reading: Jeremiah 38.4-6, 8-9. Second reading: Hebrews 12.1-4. Gospel: Luke 12.49-53
Jesus opened his ministry with a call to a change of heart. “Repent, for the Reign of God is at hand.” He had lived in a time when the vast majority of people were living in poverty and under the imperialism and oppression of the Roman Empire. Money and power were put ahead of the dignity of people. He called for a change of heart, to live the values of caring and sharing, of justice and love, of reconciliation and peace; that is, to begin living the Reign of God. In such a reign, the primary value would be our dignity as brothers and sisters, daughters and sons of God, made in God’s image, living in solidarity with one other. For speaking out on behalf of the poor and oppressed, for calling people to a change of heart, for decrying the actions of the oppressors, Jesus paid the supreme price. The second reading tells us: “…for the sake of the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, disregarding its shame…”
Living the Reign of God today calls all people of goodwill to witness the Gospel message and the values that Jesus lived and taught. Pope Paul VI in his encyclical, On Evangelization in the Modern World, says that it is not only a matter of witnessing the Gospel message, “but also of affecting and as it were upsetting, through the power of the Gospel, those criteria of judgement, determining values, points of interest, lines of thought, sources of inspiration, and models of life, which are in contrast with the Word of God and the plan of salvation.”
Our society values above all power and money, position and prestige, consumerism, individualism, winning at all cost, militarism, and economic imperialism. Jesus calls us to affect and upset these values with the values of the Gospel.
Pope Francis in Laudato Si says that there is an “intimate relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet” and that “everything in the world is connected.” Poverty throughout the world and environmental degradation is directly related to greed, over-consumption, and the unjust distribution of the Earth’s resources. Our society values above all power and money, position and prestige, consumerism, individualism, winning at all cost, militarism, and economic imperialism. Jesus calls us to affect and upset these values with the values of the Gospel.
To live mission today is to help preserve the planet; to live mercy and peace; to call for an end to all forms of militarism and war; to be in solidarity with others in their struggle for decent employment, a home, an education, adequate health care; to work for a just and fair system of taxation; to join with women in their struggle for equality; to work with others to eradicate poverty, malnutrition, and hunger; and, if there is an opportunity, to live and work for a period of time in another land and culture in solidarity with another people. There are many ways to announce the values of life—the values of community and solidarity, of sharing and caring, of justice and love, of reconciliation and peace—allowing nothing to be put ahead of our common dignity in God’s image and likeness. The words of Jesus speak loudly to us today, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!”