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Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

We reflect upon the voice of the prophet in this Sunday’s readings. We hear of the suffering and the rescue of Jeremiah. We hear how Jesus anticipates his suffering and death. As with Jeremiah and Jesus, the prophets were sent by God to the leaders and people of Israel. A prophet is one who speaks truth to the powerful, exposing their darker hidden motives and injustices. The prophet presents a way forward that aligns with God’s purposes. A prophet can force people away from a comfortable neutrality or indifference. The prophet creates an urgency to make a choice: Are we content with the status quo, or are we to change our ways and pursue a new and better path? Today, we may also ask, how do we identify and respond to prophets of our time? How might we provide a prophetic voice in our Church and in our world?



Jesus’ intentions to “set the earth on fire” and to cause division were disturbing to his listeners, and may be disturbing to us, too. In the Old Testament, fire was seen as the means of God’s purification and judgment, truly a gift to the people. The fire destroys our illusions about ourselves and our behaviors. It burns away obstacles to a loving relationship with God. God’s fire melts any institutions, beliefs, or practices that enable evil and injustice.

Jesus came to expose evil and thereby force decisions about God’s true nature and purposes. Divisions emerged because of the diverse choices people made. Does Jesus represent some demonic power, or the true God? Do we fight to preserve current attitudes and behaviors, or do we enter the path offered by Jesus? In evoking fire, Jesus is certainly not suggesting violence or disrespect toward others. Jesus lights a fire, and then in his death, bears its results. It is a fire of sacrificial love, melting cold hearts and bringing light to a darkened world.



The author of the Letter to the Hebrews places Jesus at the center of faith. The author uses the Greek word archegos, translated as “leader.” This rich word includes various meanings: pioneer, instigator, and captain. Jesus blazed the trail, showing us how to run the long-distance race of faith—with steadfastness and courage. To a community experiencing persecutions and discouragement, Jesus is known as the exemplar of faithful endurance.

In “keeping our eyes on Jesus,” we confront what often is the most persistent obstacle to our faith—discouragement. Our faith-filled focus on Jesus enables us to see reality as filled with the presence of God. God is neither distant nor indifferent; God is close and passionately loves us. Discouragement results in part from seeing mostly sin and darkness in our world and in ourselves. Jesus, God and human, reminds us of the divine activity within us and among us.




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