A couple of years ago, Fr. Jacques Hamel, whom ISIS terrorists murdered, and recently Christians in Nigeria were murdered. A couple of priests were captured and found dead. This weekend's readings encourage us to live our faith courageously. It raises two questions: are we able to live our faith in our daily life? Are we facing challenges?
In the first reading, Jeremiah was thrown into a cistern because he refused to tell the king what the king wanted to hear. The reading takes us back 600 years before Christ when the land we know now as Iraq was named Babylon. The Babylonians were mighty at that time. Jeremiah showed the courage of his prophetic conviction by telling King Zedekiah that the Lord God said he had to surrender to the mighty army of the Babylonian empire to save Israel. Such talks were viewed as unpatriotic, and Jeremiah was considered a traitor. The prophet was cast into a cistern but was saved from death by the Ethiopian official Ebed-melech. Since the king did not listen to God’s counsel given by His prophet, Babylon captured and destroyed Jerusalem. Jeremiah faced suffering and opposition for following God’s word. His life was not easy. In chapter 20 we see Jeremiah was going through the interior crisis and cursed his own life. “Cursed be the day on which I was born! May the day my mother gave me birth never be blessed!” (20:14).
The conflict that Jeremiah provoked within his own household and his ministries illustrate Jesus’ teaching in the Gospel reading (Luke 12:49-53) that he came “to set the earth on fire,” not peace, “but rather division” and that household will be divided against each other. The fire is a symbol of God’s presence and love (Deuteronomy 4:24; Acts 2:3); God’s judgment on sinners (Leviticus 10:2, Matthew 22:7), and divine purification (Luke 3:16; 1Peter 1:7).
God offers us his love, mercy, salvation, and desire that we accept and respond to his gifts. God offers these gifts freely and generously, but all are willing to accept them so that division will occur even within the families. Luke 14:26, Jesus says, “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Peace is possible only if we embrace him in faith (John 14:27).
The second reading from the Hebrews, which Paul wrote to the Judeo-Christians who had been rejected by their fellow Jews, expelled from their synagogues, and cut off from family and old friends. Christ presents the ultimate example of patients and persevering fidelity to the will of the Father through his suffering and death on the Cross. He went to Jerusalem knowing that he will be arrested and crucified.
We, too, are called to do our best until our great run for the Faith is crowned with victory. God walks with us every moment. He knows we face difficulties and temptations, so he gave us sacraments to give us nourishments, forgiveness, and healing. He also gave us fellow Christians to support each other in our faith journey. Let us grow in love for our faith and share it with many.