SOUL FOOD for Hungry Adult Communities: August 18th 2013: Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
SOUL FOOD for Hungry Adult Communities: August 18th 2013: 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
20TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME: AUGUST 18 2013
‘Keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus’:
First Reading (Hebrews 12:1-3) “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God. Consider how he endured such opposition from sinners, in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart.”
(See Rob Heffernan from Cork winning a world gold medal in the 50k walk, in Moscow, on Wednesday of this past week. http://corkrunning.blogspot.ie/ )
It’s easy to lose heart. It’s easy to give up. My late Father often used the phrase ‘the virtue of Stick-at-it-ness’,- of perseverance in the face of obstacles. Winston Churchill put it another way, ‘Never give up, never ever give up’. Today’s first reading, from the Letter to the Hebrews (no one knows the author), contains this passage, above, so that we ‘may not grow weary.’
This little reflection that follows might help you, – or else skip down to the comments about the Gospel of today.
Reflection: Running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus: The race is to be run “while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.” The text reads literally “looking away to Jesus.” This means looking away from everyone and everything else and concentrating on Jesus. We who run the race look to him for guidance and aid. He is called by two titles – the leader and perfecter of faith.
The text chosen comes from a section of Hebrews entitled A Call to Continue in Faith
(Hebrews 12:1-17). Today’s text is the first three verses of this section and can be entitled Look to Jesus. The author points to the fact that we are surrounded by a “cloud of witnesses.” The image is taken from the athletics track. They are the spectators at the race in which we are running. But they are a special group of spectators. They are the ones who have finished the race and whose faith is confirmed and they now surround us to encourage us as we run the race. The author encourages us who are about to run to “rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us.” In the original Greek the phrase is to rid ourselves of al that surrounds, besets and distracts. In short, the athlete sheds all that gets in the way of running the race to victory. The Greek word translated as “perseverance” (hypmonē) has the nuance of endurance in the face of hostility. The race is to be run “while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.” The text reads literally “looking away to Jesus.” This means looking away from everyone and everything else and concentrating on Jesus. We who run the race look to him for guidance and aid. He is called by two titles – the leader and perfecter of faith. He is such because he himself persevered and endured the shame of the cross. Because of this he is now at God’s right hand. In this way, Jesus is presented, not as a model of martyrdom, but of perseverance. For this reason the author encourages to reflect seriously on Jesus’ experience. He endured (persevered in the face of) sinners’ opposition (hostility) over a long time. The Greek word used for “opposition” or “hostility” (antilógia) means verbal opposition and abuse. The author’s encouragement lies in Jesus’ identification with those who suffer such hostility now. So the reason we “look away to Jesus” is so that we do not grow weary or faint. Runners without endurance do not finish the race. They grow faint and weary and collapse.
GOSPEL READING: LUKE 12:49-53.
‘I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already.There is a baptism I must still receive, and what constraint I am under until it is completed!’ (Jerusalem Bible).
Another translation has it this way: ‘I have come to bring fire to the earth, and, oh, that my task were completed! There is a terrible baptism ahead of me, and how I am pent up until it is accomplished!’ (The Living Bible).
Do we want to ‘catch the fire’ of Jesus in our hearts and homes and communities? Do we want to be with him when he is steeped and immersed in what he is doing for the world? Do we want to walk his road with him? Are we ready and willing to have ‘a baptism of fire’ in walking with him?
About ‘Fire’: the nature of Jesus’ message is to purify and to cause people to distinguish dross from the genuine product.’ This is a flashback to Luke 3:16, where John the Baptist says of Jesus: ‘He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.’ ’Kindle in us the fire of your love’ is an ancient Christian prayer.
About ‘Baptism’: the image here is of Jesus facing a great difficulty, and being almost overwhelmed by catastrophe. Jesus sets his face for Jerusalem and for opposition and to complete his exodus, on the Cross and beyond the grave. Jesus is facing his own ‘baptism of fire’. He invites us to have courage also, when we are immersed in difficulties.
The second part of today’s (difficult!) Gospel, about division and having to make choices about Jesus, is also a flashback to the words of Simeon when the Child was presented in the Temple: ‘Look, he is destined for the fall and for the rise of many in Israel, destined
to be a sign that is opposed…so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.’ Jesus asks for decisions about him. Even within families, people will have different positions about him. Jesus tests us to the core. He purifies the dross in us, and lays bare what goes on inside us,- for our own sake. Even gold has to be purified by fire! And so do we.