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20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Aug.

18, 2013 (Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10; Hebrews 12:1-4; Luke 12:49-53) Jeremiah appears periodically in the three year cycle of readings, like a sudden shank in a golf swing which can ruin a golfers confidence. So too, the words of Jeremiah shake lose the overconfident and the self-satisfied and challenge us to get back to the basics of our faith. Like most prophets Jeremiah reminds us that a prophetic word is rarely welcomed by the establishment, whether religious or social. In this case the princes want him silenced because his words have contradicted the political wisdom of his day. He advocated no resistance in the face of the Babylonian threat. The accepted wisdom was to join in foreign alliances and to resist at all costs. King Zedekiah yields to the power of the princes and lets them jail Jeremiah. But a court official intervenes on his behalf and the king orders him released. Jeremiah will not change his prophecy that Jerusalem will be taken by the Babylonians in spite of this favor shown to him by Zedekiah. The power which the princes hold over Zedekiah is shown by Zedekiahs insistence that Jeremiah deny they had even spoken, lest they kill Jeremiah. Obviously not all ancient monarchs were as powerful as David. He ruled pretty much as he saw fit. Zedekiah was no David. The Gospel presents a prophetic side of Jesus, whose comments on peace and the sword merit a closer look. Matthew 10:34-36 is the only other passage like this in the New Testament. The wording is quite different in each as a quick look will show. Commentators disagree on the meaning of the fire he has come to set. Some think of it as the end-time fire that many people thought would accompany the end of the earth. The baptism with which he still

had to be baptized likely refers to his passion and death, since he had already undergone Johns baptism ( Lk. 3:21). In Luke during the infancy narrative the heavenly host proclaimed peace on earth to those on whom Gods favor rests. That will be echoed in the crowds greeting Jesus when he arrives in Jerusalem before his passion (Luke 19:38). Now Jesus speaks of the divisions in families which his coming and his teaching provokes. The Gospels reflect here the diverse reactions to Jesus, even among family members during the first Christian century. The question is whether this is Jesus doing a little self reflection or whether this is the product of the Gospels written stage (ca. 85 AD) when Luke would have already known how much division had arisen in families about Jesus and who he was. It would be easy to picture Jesus reflecting on his teaching and recognizing how divided people were in their reaction to his teaching and in trying to identify him. It is also easy to understand how he could see that his teaching about such institutions in Judaism as the Sabbath day laws and about the Temple had brought him into conflict with the religious leadership of Judaism. That in turn brought families into conflict with each other. Just as easy is to picture Luke writing towards the end of the first century when these rifts between families had become so evident. In that case, the statement: Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division becomes a prophecy after the fact. Otherwise, it would sound as though bringing division were his main intention, rather than peace. Its impossible to enter into the mind of the author, whether Luke or Jesus. We are left then to mull over the possibilities. Fr. Lawrence Hummer