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20th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C

In the 1st Reading today we hear of yet another incident where the prophet Jeremiah finds himself in trouble for speaking the truth. This time his preaching is sowing words of dissention among the soldiers and the captain of the army is furious; dissenting soldiers means a crumbling army, and a crumbling army means that the city becomes vulnerable to being ransacked and overtaken. The “leading men” want rid of Jeremiah!

However, King Zedekiah is conflicted about the issue. On one hand Jeremiah is a prophet – would it be wise to harm a man of God? On the other hand, he’s risking the safety of the city. What should the king do? Easy, he avoids taking responsibility by passing the buck back to the complainers – “he is in your hands”. Poor Jeremiah is then thrown into a muddy well and left there to die. However, a Cushite man (a non-Israelite) witnesses the event and is deeply alarmed. He goes to the king for help, and the king - grudgingly I’m sure - instructs that Jeremiah be pulled from the well and he escapes death yet again. There are a couple of lessons here. First, we have a touch of irony. The king – and his cronies – who would have classified themselves as good, holy, religious people, but yet they have no moral compass or conscience.

Second, to take responsibility and faithfully follow God’s will may well end up causing some dissonance, difficulty and inconvenience in our lives. It is not an easy option, and like the king in 1st Reading, it’s easy to pass the buck and rationalise it as someone else’s responsibility. In the Gospel we hear how Jesus said, “I have come to bring fire.” He wished it were already blazing across the earth. This was not intended to terrify: Jesus had come neither to judge nor to destroy, but to save. His vision was of a holier way of life spreading like wildfire across the earth. He believed that God was beginning to intervene in this world in a new and unstoppable way.

Jesus did not say, “Stand clear,” but “Come to me.” And all who did, however sinful, found themselves forgiven and cleansed in his holy presence. John the Baptist had foretold that the Christ would come to baptise with fire. So it was that at Pentecost, “tongues” of fire came to rest upon the heads of his followers. It was not, as John had anticipated, an avenging fire. Gods desire was to purify all peoples in an outpouring of God’s own Holy Spirit, the burning ardour of pure love.

Have a good week,

Fr Brett

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