Resources for Living the Gospel Today

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Gospel Reflection

Gospel Reflection for August 18, 2019, 20th Sunday Ordinary Time

Sunday Readings: Jeremiah 38.4-6,9=8-10; Hebrews 12.1-4; Luke 12.49-53

“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled. I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division” – Luke 12.51-52

Our daily news often immerses us in divisions that can slice through families, friendships, and neighborhood bonds. We live in polarizing times. Older folks hint their political leanings in whispers to new acquaintances, testing whether to say more or less.

Young people disclose their pronouns on their name badges at meetings in support of non-binary and transsexual friends. I cringe at how frequently out of enthusiastic friendliness young people address me and rooms full of women as “you guys.” Does using inclusive language belong only to my generation? So easily we differ and in what agony we struggle to understand.

To reckon means to count, calculate, consider the cost, to settle accounts. Reckoning is a key word that civil rights lawyer and advocate Michelle Alexander explores in a recent New York Times column, “Reckoning with Violence” (02/19/2019). The USA has 2.2 million persons in prison, the New Jim Crow Alexander names it in her book by that title about mass incarceration.

Her column calls for survivors of crime and perpetrators to meet and work out repair for the wrong, face to face. Ninety percent of the perpetrators of nonviolent crime choose to have survivors shape the repair.

In her book Until We Reckon, Danielle Sered finds imprisonment counterproductive. Reckoning is a pathway to accountability. In restorative justice circles, a perpetrator not only answers to a survivor but can put a life together and stay out of prison. She urges us as a nation to break our addiction to caging human beings.

In Sunday’s gospel Jesus is reckoning the cost of discipleship to himself and to those who believe in him. He asks, “Do you think I have come to bring peace to the Earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.”

The gospel anticipates dividing fires will persist. Every election season lights fires and puts Catholic social teaching to work. Who includes the least in their vision of economic life? Who values the family and puts people to work? Who will help people with pre-existing conditions afford their meds? Who can negotiate for the common good?

When have you experienced faith as a source of division? What value do you experience in talking about difficult, even divisive questions? 

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