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The Pain of Separation

First Reading: Jeremiah 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: Psalm 40:2, 3, 4, 18

R. (14b) Lord, come to my aid!
I have waited, waited for the LORD,
and he stooped toward me.
R. Lord, come to my aid!
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.
R. Lord, come to my aid!
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.
R. Lord, come to my aid!
Though I am afflicted and poor,
yet the LORD thinks of me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
O my God, hold not back!
R. Lord, come to my aid!

Second Reading: Hebrews 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.

Gospel: Luke 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.”

NAB

aug 14

As someone who would like to consider myself a peacemaker, or at the very least, a peace pursuer, I always tend to cringe inwardly when this passage from the Gospel of Luke is read. I mean, really, what is up with this Jesus? Doesn’t Isaiah 9:6 prophesy about You being the Prince of Peace? Didn’t You Yourself say blessed are the peacemakers in Matthew 5:9?  But here You’re saying that You didn’t come to bring peace, but division. What gives?

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus speaks repeatedly in hyperbole and parable. He coats His words in mystery and story, and the result is that we are forced to chew on them a long time before we can digest them. Rather than spoon-feeding us Truth, Jesus knew we would internalize His words best if we had to work for it a little.

Is it Jesus’ desire for the world that we would be divided and at odds with one another? I believe the Bible tells us it’s not. Yet Jesus knew the nature of people: He knew that in calling us forth to lives of righteousness and justice, some would eagerly follow and some would resist vehemently. Even within a household, a family, some will choose to follow the way of Christ and some will choose to reject it.  There is true pain we experience where disunity exists, yet we know it is more than worth it for the sake of knowing and loving our Lord.

And so, in His wisdom, He gives us Hebrews 12. We look to Christ and how He endured the opposition of sin through the way of the cross. And in the same way He gives us grace to run the race that is set before us, the grace to keep our eyes fixed on Him and not grow weary or lose heart. We may suffer the pain of separation from loved ones for the sake of the Gospel, but we will never have to know the pain of separation from Him. Thanks be to God.

How can you pray for the disunity in the world today? How can you pray for any divisions within your family or extended family? Talk to Christ; turn to Him.

photo credit

Shannon Evans is a Protestant missionary turned Catholic convert who lived to tell the tale. An adoptive and biological mom of three boys, she enjoys hosing mud off children, scrubbing sticky furniture, and rushing to the ER to have nails extracted from small intestines. You can find out more about her here.

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