Daily Reflection
August 19th, 2001
Larry Gillick, S.J.
Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.

Preparing for Sunday anticipating this day.
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time 
Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10
Psalms 40:2, 3, 4, 18
Hebrews 12:1-4
Luke 12:49-53

Jeremiah has literally gotten himself into deep trouble.  He has been speaking to the citizens of Jerusalem to surrender to the invading, enemy king.  Those soldiers and citizens who do will live and those who do not will die.  This, of course, disturbs the leaders more than somewhat so they appeal to the King Zedekiah to have Jeremiah put to death.

Ebed Melech, a court official makes a decision to inform the king that his decision to have Jeremiah put to death was wrong and so the king reverses himself and the official gets three helpers and lowers some ropes to get Jeremiah up and out of the mud. 

Jeremiah was trying to do something for the welfare of the people, but his words frightened the people even though they were true.  They were being forced to decide to resist or surrender and though they knew Jeremiah to be a prophet, some would rather not listen to the word of the Lord.  Jeremiahís real problem always has been that the Word of the Lord burns within him and he has to let that fire out, no matter what the consequences.  So he gets thrown into a cistern to douse his fire, but there is no water, just muck.  He has spoken what was in him to say and we hear how his fidelity to his being himself as prophet results in his being saved.  His listeners fail truly to hear him, themselves and go into the mud and muck of captivity. 

Jesus speaks of His Own fire in todayís Gospel and the desire to spread it.  This fire is neither the Holy Spirit nor exactly the spreading of the Good News.  As we hear in the rest of the Gospel today, it is the fire of purification or cleansing as is done with gold to bring it to a high degree of purity.

Jesus, the Prince of Peace, the One Who offers peace that the world cannot give, states that He has come not to bring peace, but division.  This seems to be a great contradiction and does get our attention.

Thirty years ago, the war for peace in Vietnam brought much warring within families here in the United States.  Earlier in our national history, we suffered the War Between the States, and members of one family would be fighting for the North and against their brothers and/or fathers who were fighting for the South.  Decisions were made that broke families apart for the sake of some ideals and the idea of peace.  Jeremiah heard Godís call and paid the price for his decision to be faithful to it.  Jesus heard His own call and desired deeply to have it lived out, but it would cost Him His life.

For us, any decision creates a purifying tension within us and often between us.  The self-purification is that fire which burns away natural doubts, fears, self-gratification, demands, and other contrary forces that accompany our one good choice.  Jesus asks His disciples for that choice, that decision which will bring about peace eventually, but before that, much muck and mud. 

I have made many decisions to begin a diet and as soon as I do, I hear all kinds of voices and experience all kinds of needs which result in a terrible intensification of hunger.  This hunger is contrary to my desire to shed a few pounds.  My motive, my desire is purified by my listening to the hungers and temptations and yet stay faithful and more clear about what is the real good to which I took aim.  Decision creates a war within and thatís the meaning of Jesusí saying that He did not come for peace, but that war within which will result in the good, the welfare, the peace of our world and ourselves. 

Our personal decisions to live the Gospel more authentically and publicly will bring us into conflict with others, some of whom might be in our own blood families.  What Jesus is asking for is an individual decision to follow Him to Jerusalem through possible sufferings which might break our hearts or our relationships.  This process is so very purifying and that fire can be so very painful.  Each of us has to live faithful to how we hear Godís call or we will never find peace within ourselves nor between others and ourselves. 

He came to set a fire within us, to begin a war with ourselves so that our purer hearts and spirits might live more peacefully and work more genuinely for the welfare and good of others in Godís Kingdom.  If we do not wage well the war within, then there is a greater likelihood that we will wage wars between.  Our peace comes at the end of our being purified by His Word and Call.  There may be muck and mud surrounding our battle areas, but the Prince of Peace waged His Own war there and accompanies each of us in the struggle for fidelity. 

ďWith the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.Ē  Psalms 130


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