(20th Ordinary Sunday: Jeremiah 38:4-10; Hebrews 12:1-4; Luke 12:49-53)
Jeremiah, committed to his prophetic ministry, was deeply disliked. His enemies, in the first reading, accused him of demoralizing the people.
The message of La Salette has a strong prophetic character. It is not surprising, then, that La Salette is less well known, less popular than other Apparitions.
Jesus encountered opposition on many sides. One of his Apostles betrayed him. In today’s gospel he tells his disciples to expect the same, even from their own family.
The second reading does not minimize the struggle we face. The last verse even raises the prospect of shedding blood. But it reminds us that Jesus “endured such opposition from sinners, in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart,” and exhorts us, “Let us persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.”
We cannot be expected to enjoy conflict. In fact, in many social situations it is considered bad form to discuss politics or religion; it is too unpleasant, too divisive; it causes too many arguments, too many hurt feelings.
It pains us, as people dedicated to the cause of reconciliation, to see so much dissension. It can be so overwhelming that we are tempted to look away. But then we would not be true to our vocation.
Every time we hear Jesus’ words, “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division,” it comes as a shock. After all, at every Mass we hear his other saying, from John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.” Can both of these sayings be true? Yes. External conflict need not exclude inner peace.
We need to understand and accept just how radical it is to believe in God and to seek to do his will. Is our faith on fire? Is it blazing with love for God? Do we have that most precious of gifts from the Holy Spirit—a proper fear of the Lord?
We must not be lukewarm in our faith. Nor may we be belligerent. But imitating the Beautiful Lady’s gentle approach, “Come closer, don’t be afraid,” we may, like her, offer Christ’s peace to the world.
Wayne Vanasse, and Fr. René Butler, M.S.