With the Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time occurring this coming Sunday, August 16th, I wanted to share an excerpt from a reflection based upon the readings for this liturgical day written by lay missioner Joanne Blaney. Joanne is currently serving as the Regional Director of Brazil. Through her ministry with the Popular Education and Human Rights Center in São Paulo, Joanne trains community leaders in violence prevention and restorative justice practices. She also works with people in prison and has given presentations at restorative justice conferences throughout the world.
“How do we respond to God’s call to denounce injustices? How do we speak and work in favor of the 1.4 billion people in our world who live at the survival level of $1.25 (or less) a day and lack basic necessities of food, water, education, healthcare, and shelter? How do we respond to climate change and ecological destruction on our planet?

Our Gospel today is a difficult one to hear. Jesus tells us that he has come to bring fire to the earth. What is this fire about which Jesus speaks? In biblical times, fire was a sign of God’s presence and also a symbol of purification and, at times, fear and division. Perhaps a fire needs to be ignited in us so that we may respond to the needs of our brothers and sisters and our suffering planet.

Jesus uses powerful language in speaking about how one household will be divided against another and members of the same family will be divided. If we truly live out Gospel values, there are consequences in our lives, both for the present and the future. When we prioritize getting along with others or external peace ahead of faithfulness to the Word, we fail in kindling the fire of the Spirit.

[…]Jesus and Jeremiah suffered for their message of inclusion and solidarity. May we be strengthened in our ability to suffer for the sake of others. May the fire of the Divine Spirit truly be kindled in us so that we may have the courage to more actively work for peace and justice in our communities.” (A Maryknoll Liturgical Year: Reflections on the Readings for Year C, p. 164-165)

Life is not and never was something that was going to be easy. What is it that we see in the world? What is it that we would like to change or work towards? Take the time to think about these questions. When you find your answers, like Joanne says, “May the fire of the Divine Spirit truly be kindled in [you] so that [you] may have the courage.”