The Word in Other Words by Fr Narciso Cellan SVD (Philippines)
20th Sunday Ordinary Time, Jer 38:4-6, 8-10, Heb 12:1-4, Lk 12:49-53
A woman said in a church meeting: “My husband died some years ago. I lost my first born in an accident. At the age of 30, I became a single mom to a two—year—old girl. I was groping in the dark — that‘s how I saw the Light.”
A man listening to her blurted out: “The only light I can talk about is the one that comes from my health insurance. My family business collapsed, and my salary 1s not enough to support my family. We‘ve sold our car, and our house could be next. I feel that God has betrayed me.”
Sometimes our faith in God and personal tragedies can be difficult to reconcile. The underlying assumption seems to be that in moments of helplessness, God should be able to help and rescue us; otherwise, what good is He to us?
Today‘s gospel offers us no solace from life‘s misery. The statement of Jesus that He has come to set the earth on fire and wishes that it were already blazing could mean nothing to those who have lost hope. It could even be used as a proof of the foolishness and absurdity of the notion that there is a Divine Being ruling over the entire universe and is in control of our lives.
What for should we believe in Him if it means no peace but division, no love but hatred, and no protection from suffering? The One who is “destined to be the downfall and the rise of many in Israel” (Lk 1:34), yet at the same time called the “Prince of Peace” (Is 9:5) is a figure of contradiction. His peace spells trouble for many of us.
Christian life is not the safest place to be, certainly not the most peaceful. We could lose sleep struggling to forgive our enemies, skip meals caring for the troubled, leave homes to go to a far—flung mission area, volunteer to teach poverty—stricken children, donate a portion of our salary to the poor, fight for the life of the unborn. The price of being a follower of the Lord is steeped with challenges and uncertainties.
Spiritual writer Michael Quoist said that “we do not have a before and an afterwards, but an infinity.” True, sufferings and pains are hard to bear. Nevertheless, seen in the context of infinity, they can strengthen our faith and deepen our hope.