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Sunday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time (C)

Scriptural Readings: Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10; Psalms 40:2, 3, 4, 18; Hebrews 12:1-4; Luke 12:49-53

My dear encountered couples:

“I have come to set the earth on great is my anguish until it is accomplished.” These are not my words. They are the words of Jesus Christ.

Have you ever tried to accomplish something that you believed needed to be done, but knew that what you were going to do would cause pain? Looking for a job, the first day at work, asking for a raise can cause lots of stress and anguish. But that’s probably pain only to yourself. There are things we find we must do that will also cause pain to others. Like parents finding they must discipline their children, not for the parents’ good or advantage, but for the child’s.

Their grades have not been up to par and you are pretty sure you know why. “No more television, young man, until you finish your homework and I have checked it.” “But dad, mom, I’ll miss one of the most important episodes of “The Voice!” Tonight, they are going to decide who will last till the final cut.”

“Get off the phone, young lady, and get to your books. No more telephone for you tonight. The principal has asked why you aren’t doing so good lately?” Off goes the TV, unplugged goes the phone, out come the books. Both the parents and the children are upset, and quite possibly angry with one another over the disagreement and unpleasantness of the moment. But it had to be done.

Ever accidentally found evidence of drugs in either your son or daughter’s laundry and were propelled to search their room? Where you found a little cellophane bag of some kind of crumbly stuff and an oversized matchbook containing little sheets of papers? Or worse - a bag of white powder? The pain everybody is going to have to go through to correct that situation can make the TV and telephone restrictions seem like child’s play. It doesn’t take a parent too many years to come to an understanding of what Jesus meant when he said, “I have come to set the earth on fire; how great my anguish until it is accomplished.”

Jesus came to save us – which required not only his dying on a cross but his disciplining us. To tell us things that we might not want to hear but are for our own good. Because of his love and tenderness, because he was a God of peace and joy we can be sure it was hard for him. He knew it would upset us. Imagine him having to tell us we can no longer do this, that we must do that, or risk ending up in hell. That we must repent and change our ways or eternity would be the biggest nightmare of our existence. Like children can end up on the street begging if they don’t get a good education, we all can find ourselves out in the cold - or is it the heat - if we don’t adhere to the commandments of Christ.

Jesus was in anguish not only because of the crucifixion he knew he was going to have to undergo, but because of the anguish he knew his words would cause us. He was about to declare all – out warfare on the evil inclinations that lie in the heart of every man, woman, and child.

Those of us who would take Christ seriously were not only going to experience conflict with those who rejected Christ, trying to live up to his teachings and commands would cause conflict between the good and the bad in ourselves.

The person who wants to be honest and forgiving and loving, and all those other good things Jesus taught, will find life anything but smooth and tranquil. Not just from any opposition from people who are dishonest, unforgiving, and unloving, but from things in ourselves that move us in other directions. The person with a conscience, formed in accordance with the principles and morality taught by Christ, will suffer grievously when he or she permits him or herself to sin. My feelings might say “yes” to sin, but my conscience says, “Absolutely not.” And anguish, I’m talking about suffering, both mental and physical, takes place in me.

As long as a committed follower of Jesus Christ allows him or herself to sin, the conscience will cause anguish to the body and soul. There are only two categories of beings who are not bothered by their conscience. Perfect saints and totally committed devils. A perfect saint is one who has gone through the internal conflict of good against evil and came out so victorious that no longer is he or she bothered by temptations towards evil. The totally committed devil is one who has allowed the evil in him to come out so victorious that there no longer are any traces of good in his soul or conscience. All of us here, I will dare say, are still in the midst of the battle. And until it is won, one way or the other, our souls will be in anguish.

Which way would you like the conflict to come out? In favor of the good so you can spend your eternity in heaven? Or in favor of the evil and live forever in hell?

“I have come to set the earth on fire ... how great is my anguish until it is accomplished.” And how so very great our anguish until the words Jesus spoke take firm hold in us, and become one with our every thought and action!


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