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20th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Living on the Edge


“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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