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  Word To Life

Sunday Scripture Readings, Aug. 18, 2013

By Jeff Hensley
Catholic News Service

August 18, Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Cycle C. Readings:

1) Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10

Psalm 40:2-4, 18

2) Hebrews 12:1-4

Gospel: Luke 12:49-53

The role of the prophet is an uncomfortable one. Jeremiah gets lowered into a deep muddy cistern by his enemies who think he is speaking against the nation and defeating their efforts to keep the people's spirits high. The king at first allows this, but when told it will result in Jeremiah's death, he allows his servants to rescue him.

The psalm appears to take its imagery from Jeremiah's near-death banishment and subsequent rescue: "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." Then the psalmist says God put a new song in his heart. The psalm takes Jeremiah's plight and rescue as a model to give the rest of us courage when we face difficulties.

Like this week's Gospel Scripture from Luke, the reason for Jeremiah having spoken words that upset his enemies, and for Jesus admonishing those who follow him to set ourselves in opposition to our family members, is not simple contrariness but a response to God's desire for us to put him first.

Ultimately, in both situations, such actions also will be in the best interest of God and his people.

I have a friend who often finds himself in a prophetic role. His opposition to those in power has often been in the interest of offering adequate church teaching and ministry for Hispanics who are underserved in the local church where he serves. His opposition has, on occasion, resulted in having new churches built so that they could provide seating for the multitudes of people crowding into them -- often even spilling out the doors of the existing church buildings.

Some of his actions on behalf of his master, Jesus, and his people, have resulted in the equivalent of his being thrown into the miry cistern, a la Jeremiah. But God has always rescued him -- sometimes in the form of a job in a distant diocese in another state.

But my friend keeps his joy because he knows whom he serves and that the cost to himself is worthy of the inconvenience. Like the psalmist, he might be heard crying out, "Though I am afflicted and poor, yet the Lord thinks of me. You are my help and my deliverer."


Have you ever been forced to speak out in opposition to policies that might harm others? What was the outcome?


"For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame." -- Hebrews 12:2b


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