20th Sunday Year C
Theme of the week: Suffering for God’s truth and justice.
The Christian message is often counter cultural, sometime even counter intuitive. In proclaiming the message of truth and justice, we Christians often have to swim against the popular tide. This is true in every age. Today, Christians are faced with radical social practices such as the killing of the unborn, killing of the sick, sexual promiscuity, breakdown in traditional marriages and radical gender theory, just to name a few. What is our response to these? Some stay silent; some allow themselves to be “de-converted”, accept the radical practices. A small number, however, stays true to Christian teachings and continue to proclaim the truth even in the face of great adversity. Which category of Christian are you?
The year was 587 BC and the Babylonians had invaded Jerusalem. God revealed the truth to the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah conveyed the will of God to the people by prophesising defeat at the hands of the Babylonians, a very unpopular thing to say. This has angered the king’s officials. With a king too weak to object, officials threw Jeremiah in a well to drown him in the mud. Jeremiah suffered for his faith and was rescued through the intervention of Ebed-melech, a righteous official of the king. The king’s officials plotted against Jeremiah for proclaiming the truth. In proclaiming God truth, we too may face the same treatment. The story teaches to stay strong and commit ourselves to God’s truth, for God will deliver the righteous from the hands of his enemies.
In the Gospel, Jesus explains that his teachings will bring divisions, even among those closest to you (verse 51) – “father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother” (verse 53). This division can extend to our church families; with church members plotting against the righteous just as the king’s officials plotted against Jeremiah in the First Reading. By His teaching, Jesus inevitably becomes a cause of division within the society, among friends, within the family and even within church communities. In this week’s Gospel passage, Jesus asks us to be prepared to face such a dilemma, where we will be asked to stand on God’s side, possibly against people whom we love. Staying steadfast to God under such circumstances is perhaps one of the hardest crosses that we have to take up.
If the message of the First Reading and Gospel discomfort us, the Second Reading explains to us that we are not alone. The Second Reading likens life to a race where one has to suffer before finally reaching the final goal – the attainment of eternal glory. In standing for the truth, it is inevitable that we encounter setbacks. The passage urges us to always look to Jesus, “who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame” (verse 2). It is true that for most of us, our sufferings will never get to the point where we lose our lives (verse 4). Nevertheless, it is possible (in fact, likely) that we will be asked to carry the crosses that accompany our faith. In suffering for our faith, we emulate our Lord Jesus Christ and are unified with Him on His cross.
Are you suffering for your faith today? If you are, pick up a crucifix and contemplate on the suffering Christ on the cross. Let us pray with and for each other, that we may find joy and assurance through the crucified Christ. Peace be with you.