20th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)
August 14, 2022
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.










O God, who have prepared for those who love you
good things which no eye can see,
fill our hearts, we pray, with the warmth of your love,
so that, loving you in all things and above all things,
we may attain your promises,
which surpass every human desire.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

First Reading  Jer 38:4-6, 8-10

In those days, the princes said to the king:
“Jeremiah ought to be put to death:
   he is demoralizing the soldiers who are left in this city,
   and all the people, by speaking such things to them;
   he is not interested in the welfare of our people,
   but in their ruin.”
King Zedekiah answered: “He is in your power”;
   for the king could do nothing with them.
And so they took Jeremiah
   and threw him into the cistern of Prince Malchiah,
   which was in the quarters of the guard,
   letting him down with ropes.
There was no water in the cistern, only mud,
   and Jeremiah sank into the mud.

Ebed-melech, a court official,
   went there from the palace and said to him:
   “My lord king,
   these men have been at fault
   in all they have done to the prophet Jeremiah,
   casting him into the cistern.
He will die of famine on the spot,
   for there is no more food in the city.”
Then the king ordered Ebed-melech the Cushite
   to take three men along with him,
   and draw the prophet Jeremiah out of the cistern before he should die.

Responsorial Psalm  Ps 40:2, 3, 4, 18

â„Ÿ. Lord, come to my aid!

I have waited, waited for the LORD,
   and he stooped toward me.

The LORD heard my cry.
He drew me out of the pit of destruction,
   out of the mud of the swamp;
he set my feet upon a crag;
   he made firm my steps.

And he put a new song into my mouth,
   a hymn to our God.
Many shall look on in awe
   and trust in the LORD.

Though I am afflicted and poor,
   yet the LORD thinks of me.
You are my helper and deliverer;
  O my God, hold not back!

Second Reading  Heb 12:1-4

Brothers and sisters:
Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
   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.
For the sake of the joy that lay before him
   he endured the cross, despising its shame,
   and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God.
Consider how he endured such opposition from sinners,
   in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart.
In your struggle against sin
   you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.

Acclamation before the Gospel  Jn 10:27

Gospel Lk 12:49-53

Jesus said to his disciples:
“I have come to set the earth on fire,
   and how I wish it were already blazing!
There is a baptism with which I must be baptized,
   and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!
Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?
No, I tell you, but rather division.
From now on a household of five will be divided,
   three against two and two against three;
   a father will be divided against his son
   and a son against his father,
   a mother against her daughter
   and a daughter against her mother,
   a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
   and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

Reflection Questions

What makes you weary and tempted to lose heart? 

To whom among the "cloud of witnesses" do you feel especially close or drawn?

How has your faith made you a cause of division?

Catena Nova

“Do you think that I have come to bring peace on earth?” In other words: Do not imagine that I have come to offer people a sensual, worldly, and unruly peace that will enable them to be united in their vices and achieve earthly prosperity. “No, I tell you, I have not come to offer that kind of peace, but rather division”—a good, healthy kind of division, physical as well as spiritual.  Love for God and desire for inner peace will set those who believe in me at odds with wicked men and women, and make them part company with those who would turn them from their course of spiritual progress and from the purity of divine love, or who attempt to hinder them. Good, interior, spiritual peace consists in the repose of the mind in God, and in a rightly ordered harmony. To bestow this peace was the chief reason for Christ's coming. This inner peace flows from love. It is an unassailable joy of the mind in God, and it is called peace of heart. It is the beginning and a kind of foretaste of the peace of the saints in heaven—the peace of eternity. (Dennis the Carthusian)

What could be meant by a peace which is not like the kind the world gives? It is a peace... stronger than suffering. Not a peace without warfare, but peace despite warfare, within warfare, beyond warfare. It is the peace of a soul that through love has come to dwell entirely in heaven and to share in heaven's own peace, regardless of anything earthly that can happen to it.  (St. Charles de Foucauld)

The Cross is the supreme scandal not because on it divine majesty succumbs to the most inglorious punishment — quite similar things are found in most religions — but because the Gospels are making a much more radical revelation. They are unveiling the founding mechanism of all worldly prestige, all forms of sacredness and all forms of cultural meaning. The workings of the Gospels are almost the same, so it would seem, as workings of all earlier religions. That is why all our thinkers concur that there is no difference between them. But in fact this resemblance is only half of the story. Another operation is taking place below the surface, and it has no precedent. It discredits and deconstructs all the gods of violence, since it reveals the true God, who has not the slightest violence in him. Since the time of the Gospels, mankind as a whole has always failed to comprehend this mystery, and it does so still. So no empty threat or gratuitous nastiness is involved in the text’s saying exactly what has always been happening and what will continue to happen, despite the fact that present-day circumstances combine to make the revelation ever more plain. For us, as for those who first heard the Gospel, the stone rejected by the builders has become the permanent stumbling block. By refusing to listen to what is being said to us, we are creating a fearsome destiny for ourselves. And there is no one, except ourselves, who can be held responsible. (René Girard)

Jesus was convinced that his suffering would fundamentally alter the situation of his followers. The rejection of Jesus would also involve his disciples. Jesus’ passion marks the turning point and prelude to the time of the sword. To agree to follow Jesus means to venture on a life that is as hard as the last walk of a person condemned to death. Discipleship involves the readiness to tread the lonely road and to bear people’s hatred. For a disciple, the special sting of suffering will be the fulfillment of the words of the prophet Micah, “one’s enemies are those of one’s own house”. A division will go right through the midst of families and the closest relatives—fathers and brothers, mothers and daughters, even one’s own children. They will denounce each other and deliver each other up to death. Yes, Jesus envisages martyrdom as the fate of his disciples. The law that the Kingdom of God comes through suffering applies also to the disciples of Jesus. But suffering brings with it the promise that the surrender of life is simultaneously the acceptance of life. God will deliver those who endure to the end, and persevere faithfully in the hours of trial. (Joachim Jeremias)

Human desire, rivalry, competition, which had previously been kept in some sort of check by a system of prohibitions, rituals, sacrifices and myths, lest human groups collapse in perpetual and irresoluble mutual vengeance, can no longer be controlled in this way. This is the sense in which Jesus coming brings not peace to the earth, but a sword and division. All the sacred structures which hold groups together start to collapse, because desire has been unleashed. So the sacred bonds within families are weakened, different generations will be run by different worlds, give their loyalty to different and incompatible causes, the pattern of desire constantly shifting. All in fact will be afloat on a sea of wrath, because the traditional means to curb wrath, the creation by sacrifice of spaces of temporary peace within the group, has been undone forever. The only alternative is to undergo the forgiveness which comes from the lamb, and start to find oneself recreated from within by a peace which is not from this world, and involves learning how to resist the evil one by not resisting evil. This means: you effectively resist, have no part in, the structures and flows of desire which are synonymous with the prince of this world, that is to say with the world of wrath, only by refusing to acquire an identity over against evil-done-to you. (James Alison)

[W]e now have a world where there is an ever heightening awareness of victims, but a serious lack of anywhere near a corresponding awareness of the need for forgiveness. Without forgiveness, awareness of victims increases resentment and escalated conflict. Since the awareness of victims does not allow collective violence to bring peace to a society, there is nothing to stop the escalation of violence. As resentment grows rampant, it infects every level of society including the family so that family counselors are in great demand to try and talk people into giving up their resentment against those closest to them. They often fail as much as conflict mediators in political hotspots and for the same reason. Resentment becomes a defining factor of many lives and defining factors are not easily given up. So it is that the coming of Jesus the forgiving victim has brought swords and divisions.

The offer of peace and forgiveness, for all of the divine love behind it, inevitably causes division between those who accept it and those who don’t. There are two possible reactions to such a choice and a unanimous conversion to God’s peace wasn’t in the cards then any more than it is today. (Of course we humans stack the deck heavily against peace.) For those of us who seriously try to choose peace, it is tempting to think we are on the “peaceful” side of this division but we need to realize that the Word, the forgiving victim, is a divisive two-edged sword “piercing to the division of soul and spirit” and “discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” as the author of Hebrews puts it. That is, the pure forgiveness of the divine victim shows up the least bit of resentment we allow ourselves to harbor in the farthest, darkest, corners of our souls. (Abbot Andrew Marr)

This Sunday the word of God also contains a word of Jesus which alarms us and must be explained, for otherwise it could give rise to misunderstanding. Jesus says to his disciples: “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division” (Lk 12:51). What does this mean? It means that faith is not a decorative or ornamental element; living faith does not mean decorating life with a little religion, as if it were a cake and we were decorating it with cream. No, this is not faith. Faith means choosing God as the criterion and basis of life, and God is not empty, God is not neutral, God is always positive, God is love, and love is positive! After Jesus has come into the world it is impossible to act as if we do not know God, or as if he were something that is abstract, empty, a purely nominal reference. No, God has a real face, he has a name: God is mercy, God is faithfulness, he is life which is given to us all. For this reason Jesus says “I came to bring division”. It is not that Jesus wishes to split people up. On the contrary Jesus is our peace, he is our reconciliation! But this peace is not the peace of the tomb, it is not neutrality, Jesus does not bring neutrality, this peace is not a compromise at all costs. Following Jesus entails giving up evil and selfishness and choosing good, truth and justice, even when this demands sacrifice and the renunciation of our own interests. And this indeed divides; as we know, it even cuts the closest ties. However, be careful: it is not Jesus who creates division! He establishes the criterion: whether to live for ourselves or to live for God and for others; to be served or to serve; to obey one’s own ego or to obey God. It is in this sense that Jesus is a “sign that is spoken against” (Lk 2:34).  (Pope Francis) 


All Fired Up

     So much for “Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild.”  We just heard one of those passages that shakes our accustomed view of Jesus, doesn’t it?  For how could the Prince of Peace tell us, Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you but rather division?  How could someone who went about doing good speak of bring[ing] fire to the earth? (G)  And how could someone who would not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick wish that the fire were already kindled? (G)

     Well, perhaps Luke is giving us as much a glimpse into the life of the early Christian church as he is of Jesus of Nazareth.  So leaving aside those troubling questions about Jesus himself for a moment, let’s focus instead on those divided households.  I have a feeling we can relate to those a lot more easily!

     Now what do you imagine the source of the problem was for the early church — what was causing five in one household to be divided, three against two and two against three? (cf. G)  I think there are three likely culprits: let’s call them the Empire, Religion, and Your Fellow Christian –  all of them spelled with capital letters!

     As to the first, we know by the time Luke wrote his gospel, the Empire had taken note of these Christians -- and not with pleasure.  Some Jewish Christians were probably among those Claudius expelled from Rome in the year 49.  Nero would later give Christians a bum rap when Rome burned while he fiddled.  Peter and Paul, along with scores of other believers, were among those who would resist sin to the point of shedding their blood for Christ (cf. II).

     Some think these early conflicts with the Empire is one reason Luke sometimes goes out of his way to portray the Christian movement as posing Rome no threat.  He takes special pains to make clear the church was very open to Gentile pagans — everyone from “Theophilus” to whom Luke addressed his work, to Peter’s first Roman convert, the centurion Cornelius, to the Roman governor Festus who judged Paul had done nothing wrong in preaching the gospel, and who would have freed the apostle had he not appealed his case to Caesar.  Oh yes, Luke would not have the Empire thinking ill of us.  Still, there must have been some nervous households should a Christian or two be found lurking within them — enough to set father against son and son against father (G).

     And then there’s Religion. By the time Luke wrote his gospel, the Empire had moved against Jerusalem, destroying the city and its Temple — though he makes no mention of this atrocity.  In the aftermath of the disaster, the rabbis regrouped, giving birth to Judaism as we know it — the Pharisee party giving shape to what was left of their religion.   And because they were under siege, they could tolerate no deviation from their understanding of Torah. So sects like the Nazarenes, following this Jesus, and speaking of him as though he were a god, distancing themselves from the Law,  letting Gentiles join their movement without becoming Jews first – well, that would not do under the circumstances.  One can imagine therefore households divided, where followers of the Way might be living with those who followed the Pharisees--enough to set mother against daughter and daughter against mother (G).

     Finally, there’s Your Fellow Christian: probably the most troubling of all these sources of division.  And Luke leaves no doubt whose side he’s on.  His hero is Paul with his gospel of freedom, inviting Gentiles into the church without benefit of circumcision and most other prescriptions of the Law. If you read between the lines of Luke’s account of the first great controversy to shake the church over Paul’s mission, I think you can hear echoes of how bitter the dispute really was -- between those followers of Jesus who remained zealous for the Law like James, the brother of the Lord, and those Jews and pagan converts whom Paul decreed free of its demands. In his understated way, Luke speaks of “no small dissension”(Acts 15:2)  over the matter.  And it’s more than possible that some believers were handed over to the authorities of Empire and Religion by Their Fellow Christians– oh yes, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law (G).   

     Now I don’t mean for this to be just a history lesson. Because the forces of Empire, Religion, and Your Fellow Christian can be just as fiery today and households just as divided.   It’s true, Empires have always found reason to rid themselves of Christians.  This week we celebrated the memorial of St. Edith Stein.  After the Dutch bishops spoke out against Nazi persecution of Jews, they went after Catholic converts, among which was the celebrated philosopher and Carmelite nun.  Within a week of being rounded up from her monastery, she was gassed and her remains cremated at the Auschwitz death camp by the Third Reich.  (By the way, her conversion to Catholicism also caused no small division between Edith and her Jewish mother).

     But Empires in whatever guise are still persecuting, harassing and killing people for their faith. Today’s victims can be found in Nigeria, Ukraine, Myanmar, North Korea, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, China, Burkina Faso, and Ethiopia.  By some estimates, 1 in 7 Christians worldwide experience high levels of persecution for their faith.     

     Then there’s Religion.  Some of the countries I just mentioned outlaw religious conversions under penalty of death, have stringent “anti-blasphemy” laws and proscribe or severely limit the exercise of religious freedom.  Then there are internal divisions within various religions where one body thought to be heterodox actively oppresses another.  On our own shores, a recent alarm has been sounded about the rise of “Christian nationalism” in the United States so often aligned with authoritarian and supremacist impulses.  

     And as for Your Fellow Christian, well, there is no end to the divisions within the Christian fold.  The global Anglican Communion, for example, gathered for the Lambeth Conference continues to experience serious tensions over issues of human sexuality.  Among Catholics, regional reports are now being submitted to national episcopal conferences from the “Synodal Path” listening sessions and are, unsurprisingly, reporting significant fractures within the Catholic community on a variety of issues.  The report for the Rochester diocese notes, “The secular polarization and inability to be in relationship with those from a different perspective has infected the Church nationally and seems poised to fracture it if unity cannot be embraced.”

     So there you have it.  Peace on earth?  Well,  Luke did have angels singing something about that when Christ was born.  But he also knew, in light of the opposition Jesus endured (cf. II) and the later conflicts with Empire, Religion, and his Fellow Christians that fire to the earth (G) was more like it. For the LORD’s word, as Jeremiah knew too, is like fire .. and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces (I).

     But don’t forget, we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who did not always see eye to eye, yet are now enjoy the heavenly banquet, of which our Table is a sign and foretaste.  In other words, the fragile unity we express in this sacrament has been fulfilled where faith has now given way to vision — even as we still run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith (Cf. II).  Who lives and reigns, forever and ever.  Amen.    



Intercessions (Joe Milner; The Sunday Web Site)

For the Church: that we may be transformed by the fire of the Spirit into a dynamic community of faith and give witness to God’s abiding presence and action in the world.

For this community of faith: that the Spirit will raise a sense of urgency within us to share God’s love and mercy with all who have no direction in life.

For a renewed inspiration: that as we recall the witness and example of the women and men who have gone before us, we may be inspired to offer witness in our society to the Paschal mystery.

For all who speak the truth to power: that they may faithfully witness to the truth without succumbing to pride, self-centeredness, or being judgmental.

For all who are suffering for their discipleship: that God give them strength, console them when they are rejected, and help them to respond with love and forgiveness.

For courage: that the Spirit will empower and sustain us even when the fruits of our pursuit of the truth yield division and confusion.

For families which are divided or in conflict: that God will help them to hear and understand one another and find ways to support each other on life’s journey.

For all who work in public safety: that God will guide them in their service and protect them from all harm.

For all who have been impacted by violence or abuse: that God will heal their wounded spirits and memories, help them find places of safety, and help restore a spirit of trust within them.

For all recovering from storms or floods: that God will comfort them in their loss, give them strength, and open the hearts of many to be generous to them.

To set the earth ablaze, O God,
your Son submitted to a baptism unto death,
and from his cup of suffering
you call the Church to drink.
Keep our eyes fixed on Jesus
and give us strength in time of trial
to run the race that lies before us.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen. (ICEL; 1998)

Offerory Hymn


Give me the wings of faith to rise
Within the veil, and see
The saints above, how great their joys,
How bright their glories be.

Once they were mourning here below,
And wet their couch with tears:
They wrestled hard, as we do now,
With sins, and doubts, and fears.

I ask them whence their victory came:
They, with united breath,
Ascribe their conquest to the Lamb,
Their triumph to His death.

They marked the footsteps that He trod,
His zeal inspired their breast;
And following their incarnate God,
Possess the promised rest.

Our glorious Leader claims our praise
For His own pattern giv’n;
While the long cloud of witnesses
Show the same path to Heav’n.

Communion Antiphon


Closing Hymn

O thou who camest from above
the fire celestial to impart,
kindle a flame of sacred love
on the mean altar of my heart.

There let it for thy glory burn
with inextinguishable blaze,
and trembling to its source return
in humble prayer and fervent praise.

Jesus, confirm my heart's desire
to work and speak and think for thee;
still let me guard the holy fire
and still stir up the gift in me.

Still let me prove thy perfect will,
my acts of faith and love repeat,
till death thy endless mercies seal,
and make the sacrifice complete.