20th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Call to worship

Staying faithful to Jesus will bring division among people and even within families. We must let our baptism empower us with the fire of God’s Spirit so that our choices will be clear and loving.

  • To the point: In today’s Gospel, fire is an image referring to divine judgment. Jesus clearly states that he has come to judge the people. His own faithfulness to this task led to his anguish and ultimately to his passion and death. So will we, his faithful disciples be treated. Jesus’ intent is not primarily to condemn people, but to challenge them to right living according to the covenant established with God. May this be our intent.
  • Connecting the Gospel (Luke 12:49-53) to the first reading: Jeremiah’s preaching divided the city and incited such opposition that people sought his death. Standing in this prophetic tradition, Jesus, too, preaches a word which divides families and leads ultimately to his death.
  • Connecting the Gospel to experience: None of us seeks or desires division and strife, especially among those whom we cherish most. Sometimes, however, the choice is so clear and the values are so important, that we accept division and strife as a consequence of our choice.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is headed into darkness, toward Jerusalem. He loves her people and wants to shower abundance upon them. But he knows with increasing certainly that they will put him, not merely down a cistern but right straight into the jaws of death.

It is a baptism, he says, that he wants. He shouts to his disciples that he has come to set the earth on fire—just like blazing lightning. “How great is my anguish until it is accomplished,” he says. Filled with the Spirit of God, he cannot wait to let that Spirit flow.

In the first reading, Jeremiah is literally “stuck in the mud” of the cistern. How could he prophesy from the midst of the mud? How could Jesus speak God’s Word from a criminal’s cross? Yet from these places of death, love flows out in abundance.

“Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And then, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.” (Teilhard de Chardin)

Centering prayers

The Gospel

(Luke 12: 49-53)

“I have come to set earth on fire.”

Jesus, with you is never “sometime,”
or “maybe,” or “not today.”
There is only “always love” without limit.
A burning bush of love that you came
to share with us.
Please, help us with our indifferent,
poorly lit, trying to love.

The First Reading

(Jeremiah 38: 4-6, 8-10)

So, they took Jeremiah and threw him into the cistern.

Jeremiah was cast into the deepest mud,
Joan was scorched at the stake,
Romero was shot at Mass,
Dan Berrigan was sent off to prison.
Which of us could do
what these did for love?
Lord, not according to my will but thine.

The Second Reading

(Hebrews 12: 1-4)

Let us … persevere in running the race that lies before us,
while keeping our eyes on Jesus.

May all the saints in heaven help us
to keep our eyes on Jesus
as we run the race. No looking back.
Eyes always on him.

Copyright © 2019, Anne M. Osdieck

Music for reflection