“I Have Come to Set the Earth on Fire”-Two RC Women Priests Reflect on Jesus’ Passion-20th Sunday in OT, 8/14/16
The passion of divine love and justice burned in Jesus’ heart. He would set the world on fire with it. He could not and would not keep it quiet- no matter what the penalty would be. He said in Luke 12:49″ I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already burning”. This fire in his breast to incite God’s kingdom/kindom on earth would lead to his suffering and crucifixion to which he referred as his “baptism” in Mark 10:38 and in the text for the day, Luke 12:49-53 ,( verse 50). In these words Jesus reminds us that the life of love and justice, for him and for us the Christ- life, is not for the weak of heart or those only concerned with their own salvation-but rather for those who who are willing to endure anything so that our brothers and sisters may live against all the odds of an unjust world.
As Rev. Beverly Bingle of Holy Spirit Catholic Community in Toledo , Ohio says below Jesus was telling us that “conflict is inevitable when ever people act on their passion for justice”. Her wonderful examples show us some of the justice issues of our times and how important it is for us to be like Jesus in taking a stand and action for justice, yes we affirm, “black lives matter”. Of course, so do all lives and “blue” (law enforcement) lives matter. But not to be able to know the pain and truth in the first statement about black lives mattering is not to know the heart of Jesus, for Jesus is in every one suffering from oppression, exclusion and death as part of a despised group, race, caste or class, gender, orientation, difference, religion or culture. We recall how Jesus lifted the hated Samaritan to the level of saint, and most certainly not sinner, in the parable of the good Samaritan, for example, and made the woman of Samaria an apostle of the good news as well. Jesus saw and did things differently than the religious leaders of his time. And when we see and do things differently there is often a high penalty to pay. We cannot kid ourselves about that.
There is a part of all of us that want Jesus to only speak warm fuzzies and to gather us in his arms and carry us gently as the Good Shepherd who risked himself as he rescued and cared for the sheep. And that is a wonderful part of who Jesus is. But as that shepherd he also has had climb the rocks and stretch his arms out to crook us by the neck with his long staff and dangle us in the air to pull us up and keep us from falling over a precipice. The words in the Gospel of Luke today are those kind of words-if you want to follow me, you will at least have to tolerate conflict and divisions, even in the church. For the Gospel message is strong-loving Jesus and loving God with all of our hearts and beings and our neighbors as ourselves will be the hardest thing we ever do. It will demand patience that we run out of, and courage that can only come from God.
Throughout the world, especially in South America and other places, leaders who stick their necks out for the justice of the community of the downtrodden often are beheaded like the John the Baptist or crucified like Jesus, the cross taking various forms today- AK47’s, violent beatings and murder by thugs, living in fear of their lives. Yet regularly they do this so others may live with full rights and human dignity. They live the Gospel with the fire of Jesus no matter the outcome. Here in the USA, the penalties may be more subtle but equally strong. There is a penalty for “making waves” and it makes for swimming in rough waters. Here I also think of my sister Roman Catholic Priests who endure the rejection of the Church hierarchy, derision of some and shunning of others and the threat of “excommunication” simply for the fire in their breasts to answer God’s call to serve. If we wanted peace and quiet we would never become ordained. We want only to set the world on fire for God’s all inclusive love,justice and passion as Jesus did. And we will do it no matter what hell there is to pay here on this earth. We tolerate division, seeing it as inevitable as Jesus did, and know the Church, the people of God will remain standing and stronger for our courage. And one day, as the kin-dom of God arrives more and more on this earth with the courage of all to stand and serve, the earth will be afire with love and justice, blazing brightly, a light in the darkness as Jesus wanted it to be. That is my prayer. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
AND from Rev. Dr. Beverly Bingle:
Don’t make waves.
Mark’s gospel—the earliest canonical gospel—
reports that Jesus’ relatives set out to seize him,
believing him to be out of his mind.
He had been walking around Galilee,
teaching and healing,
calling people to live under God’s rule and love one another.
Don’t be a troublemaker, they tell him.
But he keeps on,
preaching truth and justice with fiery passion.
Scholars tell us that today‘s gospel reading
preserves “an echo of Jesus’ voice,”
a glimpse into his soul.
They say that Jesus really talked about setting the earth on fire—
setting it on fire with the passion of justice.
They believe he really said that conflict is inevitable
whenever people act on their passion for justice.
Don’t get carried away, his family tells him.
Don’t go off the deep end.
But Jesus is on fire for justice.
He preaches the reign of God,
the reign of justice that brings peace.
He chastises the folks who want him to be quiet.
In the passage that immediately follows what we heard today,
Jesus calls them “hypocrites,” telling them
that they know how to tell what kind of weather is coming
but do not know how to interpret the signs of the present time.
Thanks to television, we know what’s going on in our world. Sometimes
we see it live, just as it happens.
The signs of our times are clear.
The question for us is whether we know how to interpret them.
How, for example, do we interpret
the ongoing signs of racism in our country?
On the evening news we see demonstrators
carrying signs that say “Black Lives Matter,”
and then the white folks missing the point of what’s happening,
holding up their signs that say “All Lives Matter.”
Of course all lives matter,
but the point is that some lives—the black ones—
routinely suffer demeaning and degrading situations
and live under the daily threat of violent consequences
that are not faced by the white lives.
Where is God in all this conflict?
God stands with the one who is excluded.
God lives in the one being ridiculed.
God dies in the unarmed teen shot to death by police.
If we don’t stand with the victims of racism in our country,
we’re not standing with God.
As Christians we have to recognize Jesus of Nazareth
in the death of every innocent
who is surrounded by a halo of hate.
Another sign of our times, the Olympics!
Before the games started, Pope Francis sent a letter
to the members of a team that represents 60 million people—
the Olympic Refugee Team,
made up of people
who have escaped the violence of their war-torn homelands.
The Pope wished them success
and hoped that their courage and strength
would “serve as a cry for peace and solidarity.”
These refugees are a sad sign of our times,
so many people living in camps
without clean water, without enough food,
without health care, without a home to go to,
without a way out.
Seventy percent of the Syrian refugees coming to Ohio
have settled in Toledo.
We stand out as a welcoming community
during a time when refugees have become
a contentious political issue.
Nationally we hear talk of building walls,
deporting people without documents,
But here in Toledo, we welcome them.
We at Holy Spirit Catholic Community,
thanks to Laurie Snyder and UStogether,
have been privileged
to be part of extending a welcoming hand,
and we intend to keep on helping.
Sure, we’ve met with some criticism.
We’ve been told it’s okay to pray for refugees,
but don’t bring “those people” here to live next door.
We believe, as Catholic Christians,
that we are responsible
for watching and listening and taking action for justice.
We know what happens when good people fail to do good things.
We look to Jesus, unafraid to speak out,
no matter the consequences.
We don’t set out to make waves.
We set out to make our world right and just.
If our way of living the Gospel
would never spark a fire or risk a division,
never cause a ripple of conflict, or debate, or argument,
then wouldn’t we be practicing an inoffensive Christianity?
Cheap grace, not costly.
Gospel lite, not the Gospel of Light.
So we make that phone call
when we see child abuse or domestic violence next door.
We blow the whistle at work,
even if it means we’ll lose our job.
We speak out when we hear racist jokes,
even though some of our own family will call us names.
We act with justice,
and that can bring conflict and division.
More than that, it brings us the peace of Christ.
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue (Washington Church)
Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006