August 14, 2022
by Larry Gillick, S.J.
Creighton University's Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality
click here for photo and information about the writer

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 120

Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10
Psalm 40:2, 3, 4, 18
Luke 12:49-53

Praying Ordinary Time

An Invitation to Make the Online Retreat

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Ordinary Time Symbols in Our Home

A little American History will assist in understanding today’s First Reading from the Prophet Jeremiah. Ulysses S. Grant, the commanding General of the Union Forces has been battling the forces of The Confederacy, Robert E. Lee through the final years of what is known as The American Civil War, which is also referred to in the southern states as “The Recent disturbance.” At the end of warring, these two heroes meet on April ninth eighteen hundred and sixty-five in a little courthouse in Appomatox, Virginia. Grant asks for “unconditional surrender” which puts Lee in a dilemma. If he surrenders, will Grant’s troops slaughter the remaining men under Lee’s leadership and their horses and destroy the remaining farms? If he does not surrender, then the war continues and he will probably be killed himself along with the troops and horses anyway.

He does surrender and Grant allows Lee to keep is sword and allows Lee’s soldiers to return to their farms and villages with horses and guns. Lee maintains his stature and Grant will soon be President of the reunited States of America.

Now we turn to our Reading. Jeremiah has been speaking from his faith and heart to the soldiers and people of the city of Jerusalem. He has been causing problems by encouraging the people to surrender to the surrounding enemy. Some of the civic leaders, “princes” petition King Zedekiah, to have Jeremiah killed because of his preaching. So, Zedekiah is in a similar condition as was Lee. He has to make a life-saving determination. Ebed-melech advises his king to allow Jeremiah to be pulled out of the cistern into which the “non-surrenders” have thrown him. Jeremiah is saved and in the following verses of this chapter (38), you will read and enjoy how these exciting events end and how Jerusalem and Jeremiah survive.     

Christian Spirituality may be defined as living, with the tensions caused by our responding to the invitations of Jesus in the Gospels and in our lives. Tensions are a part of every relationship and what we hear in today’s Gospel Reading is full of them. The big question is whether there can be peace while experiencing tensions.

Our TV advertisements promote many items to resolve these nasty tensions. Jesus seems to be advertising something quite different.

This is a puzzling bit of Scripture we have to ponder and pray with. The “peace” which Jesus has come not to establish is a soft, “kind-of” relational tenseless accommodation. Jesus, rather, is inviting His followers into a real relationship in which selfishness, uncaring, violence, and irreverence is confronted. Those following Jesus have all the human characteristics as we do. I was speaking tonight to a young mother who was trying to “reason” with her two-year old son. We all have lots of “terrible-twoness” in us and His invitations are directed right into those self-establishing, self-determinating forces.

Our spirituality is centered on our making decisions which allow us to listen to His invitation and as well to the human invitations which cause the Holy Tension we call Faith. As sacred as family was in the times of Jesus, He speaks right to how Faith calls for decisions and decisions can cause tentions. I find the “peace” Jesus came to offer flows from our not allowing our belief in Jesus to separate us from, but unite us to His family members our sisters and brothers. This will sometimes cause tentions, but tentions prove the quality of His relationship with us and us with Him and within ourselves.   

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