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earth_on_fireMany people blame religion for bringing strife into the world. They point to the Crusades and the Inquisition as examples.
 
But religion itself is not to blame. The blame falls on those who call themselves Christians, for instance, but fail to live according to Christ’s commandments of love and mercy.
 
This is what G. K. Chesterton meant when he said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.”
 
Christianity should be thought of as not so much a religion as a spiritual pathway towards union with God. In fact, “The Way” was a name adopted by the earliest Christians.
 
Paul, before his conversion on the road to Damascus, was obsessed with finding “any men or women who belonged to the Way,” so he could haul them away in chains (Acts 9:2).
 
Hear what Catherine of Siena urges: “Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on fire.” Her words echo Christ’s, as recorded in Luke 12:49: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!”
 
Want to help Jesus set the earth ablaze? Simply be who God meant you to be—a Christian who lives by the Gospel every day.
 
Our prayer today:
 

Jesus, Lord of love and mercy,
strengthen us as we follow the path you have set for us.

 
Peter W. Yaremko, a former journalist, is the owner of Executive Media, Inc. and is a specialist in executive communications. He attends St. Peter the Apostle Church in Provincetown, Massachusetts and blogs at peterwyaremko.com/paradise_diaries.

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“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’” (Luke 12:49-53).
 
Luke is preparing his readers for the reality, described metaphorically by Jesus, that as Christians they should expect to encounter indifference, ridicule, and resistance, even from members of their own families. Many of his listeners were journeying toward their initiation at Easter, and Luke wants them to be prepared for the realities of life as a follower of Jesus. There are others, already Christians, who are finding it difficult to live up to the commitment of being followers of Jesus. To both, Luke is saying “You want to be a follower of Jesus? Well, this is the path he took …”
 
Today’s gospel reading faces one of the hard paradoxes of Christian life for the people of Luke’s time. This is a mission of love, yet it is also the kind of love that threatens as well as consoles. Jesus will bring division. Because of him, households will be divided right down the middle. His message and person are so powerful that he will generate love among some but loathing among others.
 
As disciples, we will discover that the more we take this Gospel passage seriously the more we will bring both division and healing. So much of what we believe and are called to live out as Christians causes us to take positions that go against popular political currents, which may make us quite unpopular in some circles.
 
When that happens—and it will happen when we take living our Christian lives seriously—how well we persevere will depend on the strength and maturity of our faith.
 
Even in division, faith offers an immense consolation. Jerusalem is the city not only of the cross but of the resurrection. Today, though, Luke is putting it the other way around: remember—he warns us— that to reach the resurrection, we have to go via the cross.
 
– When have you taken a stand that was unpopular but in line with your beliefs?
 
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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oil_lampJesus spoke often of our need to be vigilant. For example, he told the story of the five foolish virgins who let the oil in their lamps run out before the arrival of the bridegroom and the story of the faithful and prudent steward whom the master left in charge of his servants.
 
“Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival,” Jesus promised.
 
But that is only half the story, because God displays his great mercy toward us through his own expectant and loving vigilance in waiting for us to return to him.
 
Pope Francis points out that patient waiting is a quality of God. In his book, The Joy of Discipleship, Pope Francis writes:
 
“God does not forget us; the Father never abandons us. He is a patient Father, always waiting for us! He respects our freedom, but he remains faithful forever. And when we come back to him, he welcomes us like children into his house, for he never ceases, not for one instant, to wait for us with love.”
 
And when we come to God in love and repentance, his heart rejoices. “He is celebrating because he is joy,” Francis says. “God has this joy, when one of us sinners goes to him and asks his forgiveness.”
 
Our prayer today:
 

Jesus,
we pray for perseverance
in faithfully and joyfully awaiting your coming.

 
Peter W. Yaremko, a former journalist, is the owner of Executive Media, Inc. and is a specialist in executive communications. He attends St. Peter the Apostle Church in Provincetown, Massachusetts and blogs at peterwyaremko.com/paradise_diaries.

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In 1995, I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to the Holy Land on pilgrimage. One of the highlights of that trip was our visit to Mount Tabor. According to Christian tradition, Mount Tabor is the site of the Transfiguration of Christ, the feast we celebrate today. This is the site on which Jesus was transfigured before his disciples, Peter; James, son of Zebedee; and John the Apostle, and was seen conversing with Moses and Elijah ( Matthew 17:1-9, Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28-36).
 
Mount Tabor’s distinctly rounded shape rises more than 1,800 feet above the eastern end of the Jezreel Plain and about eleven miles west of the Sea of Galilee, making it easily recognizable. Getting to the top of that mountain is a feat in itself. We rode in taxis, albeit Mercedes, and I lost count of the number of twists and turns. It took the better part of a half hour and was well worth the ride. The Church of the Transfiguration is an impressive structure. A magnificent highlight consists of the upper and lower altars which are adorned with golden mosaics. The upper level commemorates the divine nature of Christ and the lower recalls different manifestations of his humanity. We celebrated Mass in the lower chapel, which has a remarkable ability to beautify and amplify sound due to its bell shape. We were blessed with some very talented singers in our group and it was a powerful experience to hear the voices reverberate in glory and praise of God.
 
What is the meaning of the Transfiguration for us today? In 2008, the first Iron Man movie was produced. It is based on a fictional character found in the Marvel Comic books. A billionaire and clever engineer Tony Stark suffers a severe injury during a kidnapping in which his captors want him to create a weapon of mass destruction. Instead he creates a powered suit of armor that in turn saves his life and enables him to escape his captors. This suit, when worn, empowers Stark as Iron Man to fight crime and terrorism. Iron Man needs to put on his suit of armor to become a better version of himself. We celebrate the Transfiguration today, a feast in which Jesus’ humanity is stripped away in order that we may see his true self—his glorified self. In our tradition, the Transfiguration is a pivotal moment, the point where human nature meets God. Three disciples were invited into Jesus’s life in an intimate way—to see him in his glory, his humanity stripped away and his divinity made visible to them. We are invited into this same intimacy with Jesus each time we celebrate the sacraments, enter into prayer, or reach out to a brother or sister in need. The question for me is do I prefer to build the tents as Peter wished to and keep this experience to myself, or do I allow the beauty of this transformation to stretch me to go where I might otherwise fear to go?
 
Sr. Maureen P. Colleary, FSP is a member of the Pastoral Services team at RENEW International and a Franciscan Sister of Peace.

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lamp_in_the_dark“Jesus said to his disciples:‘Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have the servants recline at table, and proceed to wait on them. And should he come in the second or third watch and find them prepared in this way, blessed are those servants. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come’” (Luke 12:35-40).
 
The discussion between Jesus and his disciples is picking up momentum. The stakes are higher and Jesus warns them about what to expect. They will be persecuted because of him. They will encounter hypocrisy. They must rely on God to sustain them.
 
The parable in this gospel passage deals with Jesus’ return after his ascension into glory. Jesus is the master who returns after the wedding feast. When the Lord returns, he will serve his guests as they recline at the table. Even after Jesus’ glorification, he will return to assume the role of humble servant. Leaders of the community are to follow his example.
 
Luke insists that detachment from worldly goods constitutes preparation for Jesus’ second coming. Disciples are to sell what they have and give to the poor. It is the heart of radical discipleship. Jesus acted as the example. Jesus lived the simple life, and in so doing lived in freedom. Such freedom empowers the servant to live for others.
 
The reference to burning lamps is an allusion to Passover, reminding the disciples that Christians are heirs to the liberation Jesus won by his death and resurrection. Jesus invites us to participate in the Paschal Mystery, and when we offer our suffering to God for the sins of the world, we share in the mystery of the cross.
 
The allusion to reclining at table is also a reminder of the Eucharist. We remember that Jesus gave us his presence in the midst of his absence. We memorialize his death and resurrection, and participate in that event at every celebration of Eucharist. Christians are fed the bread of life so they can, in turn, go out and feed others as they await Jesus’ return. Today’s gospel reading is also a catechism on preparedness. Christians are to be ready for the Master’s return at a moment’s notice.
 
– What does it mean to be prepared for the “return of the master”?
 
Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, available at the RENEW International store.

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