August 18, 2019 — Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today’s readings set a high bar for us Christian stewards, reminding us that a stewardship way of life is meant be a challenging way of life.
The bar is set immediately, beginning in the first verse of our Old Testament reading from Jeremiah: The king is told, “Jeremiah ought to be put to death” for “demoralizing” the people. What had Jeremiah been doing to merit such a punishment? He was speaking out against corruption and unjust treatment of the poor. For speaking God’s truth to those around him, Jeremiah gets thrown into a cistern where he is left to die. Later in the passage we learn that the king relents and sends someone to rescue Jeremiah from the cistern. Even so, some thanks he gets for preaching God’s word!
In the second reading, from the Letter to the Hebrews, we are told to live as Christ lived. And how did Christ live? “For the sake of the joy that lay before Him He endured the cross.” If we are tempted to complain about the sufferings we must endure in living as Christ’s disciples, we are told, “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.” In other words, “If you’re not bleeding, what are you complaining about?” That is quite a high bar!
The Gospel reading from Luke continues this challenging theme. Our Lord tells His disciples “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing.” A couple of verses later Jesus adds, “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.”
Jesus’s life on this earth and the message He brought were not meant to simply make us feel good. In fact, His words can make us downright uncomfortable at times. That’s because His Good News (and it is indeed good news!) is meant to change us — to make saints of us.
Another verse in our second reading encourages us to embrace this challenging way of life. “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [our big brothers and sisters, the saints] let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith.”
The stewardship way of life helps us to stay in good racing shape. By putting God first in all areas of our lives, we rid ourselves of the burden and sinfulness of over-attachment to our selves and our things. We get lean and fit and strong for the long race to Heaven. We begin to look and act more like Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith.
The stewardship way of life sets a high bar indeed. But deeply embraced, this way of life focused on God and others will make us the saints we are called to be.