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Bulletin: August 14, 2022

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Tomorrow is the Solemnity of the Assumption. Mary stands with the “great cloud of witnesses” described in Hebrews: those who kept their eyes firmly fixed on Jesus. We may not be thinking of Mary when we hear Jesus’ harsh words in today’s Gospel, but when she said “yes” to Gabriel, it carried the risk of the rejection and division that Jesus describes. As the early Christians surely knew, to hold Jesus as the sole leader and perfecter of faith meant that you would likely find yourself divided from those in your household who held other beliefs. This occurrence is not unknown in our own time and place, and many of us surely know a household divided on the issue of religion, even if the divisions are occurring solely through indifference. A life of faith lived to the full will likely eventually call on us to separate ourselves somehow, keeping our gaze firmly on Jesus, so we will also one day join the great cloud of witnesses.


Prophets have been described as being on fire with God’s message. Today, that fire in Jeremiah has to keep burning in the bottom of a muddy cistern. The rulers of his own people (including Judah’s king, Zedekiah) have placed him there for speaking an unpopular, if truthful, message to them. His own leave him there, mired in the mud, to starve and die. It takes a foreigner, an outsider, to convince Judah’s king that Jeremiah ought to be rescued, his life spared to continue as God’s prophet. As so often happens in the lives of the prophets, the help and saving power of God are shown through unexpected people in unexpected ways. We can often find ourselves mired in mud of one sort or another. Do we truly have the fire of God’s message in us, so that we can look for our rescue from places we might not expect?


A generation or two ago, these Summer Sundays in Ordinary Time would have been known as Sundays “of Pentecost.” That naming convention helped recall that the Spirit’s Pentecost fire was carrying us through all the Sundays until the end of the liturgical year. Though we may no longer use that name for these Sundays, the underlying reality is the same. The fire that Jesus speaks about today is the blaze of the Spirit. The fire he spoke about when he told his followers they were light for the world was the flame of the Spirit lighting the lamp of discipleship. It takes courageous disciples to allow the blazing fire of which Jesus speaks into their lives, to allow its light, warmth, and even cleansing to work in them and through them. Though we may not want to think about the heat of the Spirit’s fire on a summer Sunday, that Spirit is always with us, burning within.

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