Luke 12:49-53b, 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
To stand up for the truth and justice necessarily entails that one must be willing to undergo every kind of trial and tribulation. This is made amply evident in the first reading and gospel text of today.
In the first reading of today, Jeremiah who even if in the initial stages of his prophetic ministry was hesitant and diffident went on to become bold and courageous when speaking on behalf of God. It did not matter if his words for God were words against the king. What mattered was that God’s word was spoken loud and clear and God’s commands were carried out. As a consequence of his fearlessness to speak the truth, Jeremiah found himself in a cistern from which there seemed no escape.
Jesus speaks about a similar fate that he will have to face because he dares to speak God’ word. This word will cause consternation and disquiet in the lives of many who hear it and yet it is word that must be spoken. Though, speaking such a word will lead to conflict and distress even for Jesus, he will not shy away. The word governs his entire life and he cannot rest until he has done what God has commanded him to do. Although the word of God is characterized by reconciliation and peace, the announcement of that word is always divisive because it requires decision and commitment. God’s word is a word of truth and is not always pleasant to hear especially for those who are on the side of falsehood. It is a word that does not allow one to rest if one is on the side of injustice and wrongdoing. It is a word that demands change and transformation. It is a word that demands action. It calls for a radical change of mind and heart. It overturns our value system and calls us to a life that is challenging and if lived fully also challenges others. It calls for decision and commitment at every moment.
Jeremiah and Jesus were willing to undergo any kind of trial not only because they were convinced of God’s word of truth, not only because it was a motivation that came from within their hearts, but because they were confident that God who had ordained them to speak the word would be with them every step of the way. This proved true in Jeremiah’s case when he was rescued from the cistern by the slave of the king. However, in the case of Jesus’ God’s fidelity was seen in an even more powerful way through rescue from death on a cross through the resurrection.
This is the confidence that the second reading of today calls us to when it asks us to be inspired by the numerous witnesses of faith who have gone before us. However, even as we are inspired by them, we must keep our gaze fixed on Jesus who is the pioneer and perfecter of faith. It is Jesus who reveals like no other what it means to speak God’s word boldly and to face the consequences of having spoken such a word.
In a world that does not seem to be too different from the worlds of Jeremiah and Jesus as far as injustice and selfishness is concerned, there is the danger that we might be tempted to give up and give in. We might look at the vastness of the challenge and think that it is beyond our reach. We might want to throw in the towel even before we can start the fight. Yet, as disciples of Jesus we are called to be positive and optimistic. We are called by Jesus to speak God’s word. It is a word that demands justice, equality, integrity and also a word that will cause friction and hostility. It is a word that demands change and action when the rights of the poor are being trampled upon. It is a word that demands equality for all sections of society and for men and women alike. It is a word that confronts and challenges the status quo that suits only certain sections of the people and calls for a radical change of heart, mind and vision.
Will we as disciples of Jesus be prepared to speak such a word?