Daily Scripture Analysis

Daily Gospel

Twentieth Sunday in the Ordinary TimeC

Sunday of the 20 OTC

 

Readings: Jer 38:4-6, 8-10; Heb 12:1-4; Lk 12:49-53.

 

1/ Reading I: RSV Jeremiah 38:4 Then the princes said to the king, "Let this man be put to death, for he is weakening the hands of the soldiers who are left in this city, and the hands of all the people, by speaking such words to them. For this man is not seeking the welfare of this people, but their harm." 5 King Zedekiah said, "Behold, he is in your hands; for the king can do nothing against you." 6 So they took Jeremiah and cast him into the cistern of Malchiah, the king's son, which was in the court of the guard, letting Jeremiah down by ropes. And there was no water in the cistern, but only mire, and Jeremiah sank in the mire. 8 Ebedmelech went from the king's house and said to the king, 9 "My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they did to Jeremiah the prophet by casting him into the cistern; and he will die there of hunger, for there is no bread left in the city." 10 Then the king commanded Ebedmelech, the Ethiopian, "Take three men with you from here, and lift Jeremiah the prophet out of the cistern before he dies."

2/ Reading II: RSV Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

3/ Gospel: RSV Luke 12:49 "I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished! 51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division; 52 for henceforth in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three; 53 they will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against her mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law."



I. THEME: Those who witness for the truth must pay the price. 

            The world is full of falsities. To destroy falsities, there is a need for people who know, speak, live and witness for the truth. Such people shall be persecuted because they display falsities of the world; but because of their courage, many people who lost, returned to the right way and were saved.

            Today readings want to emphasize the importance of the truth and the price to pay for those who courageously witnessed for the truth. In the first reading, the prophet Jeremiah was thrown into the muddy cistern by the Judah’s leaders with a purpose to kill him in it, because they couldn’t stand his prophecies about the destruction of Jerusalem, the temple and all people shall be on exile; but they couldn’t kill him because there is still a person who knew the truth and found a way to set him free. It is a shame for the Israelites because that person is the Ethiopian eunuch, a Gentile! In the second reading, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews advised the faithful to be persevered in the battle of faith to witness for the truth. He encouraged them to imitate all the witnesses before them, especially Christ, though he was nailed to the cross, but now standing at God’s right hand in glory to intercede for them. In the Gospel, Jesus said to his apostles that he casted the fire of truth into the world and he desires this fire to light up in all people’s heart. To achieve that, he must be baptized by a bloody baptism--that is his death on the cross.

 

II. ANALYSIS:

1/ Reading I: Jeremiah was confined in the muddy cistern because of speaking the truth.

           

1.1/ The leaders harmed Jeremiah because they didn’t want to hear the truth.

            People live by hope and positive viewpoints; they want to have peace and development. In opposition, prophet Jeremiah kept announcing war, prison and death. This is the reason why the leaders of Judah came and said to Zedekiah, the king of Judah, “Let this man be put to death, for he is weakening the hands of the soldiers who are left in this city, and the hands of all the people, by speaking such words to them. For this man is not seeking the welfare of this people, but their harm.”

            But people can’t be too positive, meaning they hope when there is no reason for their hoping. The leaders of Judah can’t have a temporal peace which is based on falsities because sooner or later, such falsities shall be displayed and war shall happen and destroy them. The truth which Jeremiah spoke to them is that they must destroy their sins and return to God in order to have the true peace by God’s protection.

            Zedekiah is a weak king; he might not know the truth yet or be too weak to stand for the truth. Fearing of their pressure, Zedekiah said to them, “Behold, he is in your hands; for the king can do nothing against you.”

            The leaders of Judah didn’t want to be responsible for Jeremiah’s blood; they devised a way to kill by throwing him into a muddy cistern so he shall be killed by starvation and diseases. “So they took Jeremiah and cast him into the cistern of Malchiah, the king's son, which was in the court of the guard, letting Jeremiah down by ropes. And there was no water in the cistern, but only mire; and Jeremiah sank in the mire.”

 

1.2/ Ebedmelech defended and set free Jeremiah: Ebedmelech is an Ethiopian eunuch and a Gentile. He might hear of Jeremiah’s lamentation and praying from the cistern, so he had compassion for him--the compassion between human beings. He went from the king's house and said to the king, "My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they did to Jeremiah the prophet by casting him into the cistern; and he will die there of hunger, for there is no bread left in the city."

            Jeremiah was surrounded by many sufferings when he sit in the muddy cistern: cold, starvation, forsaking and threatening by death. This is the time when his faith in God was severely tested. This is the moment when God’s word, sweet at the beginning, but now became bitter for his heart to the point that he uttered the sad lamentations as he wrote in the third song of the Book of Lamentation. However, he still believed God shall liberate him from the enemies’ hand and death.

            Why does King Zedekiah now command Ebedmelech to save prophet Jeremiah? The king was weak; but when he saw the Ethiopian eunuch’s faith and courage, he was awoken and recognized his sin. The king said to Ebedmelech: "Take three men with you from here, and lift Jeremiah the prophet out of the cistern before he dies."

2/ Reading II: He endured the cross and despised the shame for our salvation.

2.1/ We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.

            The author compared the faithful’s life as the competition in a stadium. In this running competition, the faithful has his audience to cheer for him; they are the historical witnesses of faith looking down from the clouds. In order to run effectively, the faithful needs to do the following things:

            (1) To eliminate all burdens and sins which are binding him: In order to run the marathon, a runner must eliminate all unnecessary weights, because a weight, no matter how small it is, shall also be heavy in a long race. Similarly in the race of faith, the faithful needs to eliminate all bad habits, because a sin, no matter how small it is, shall prevent the faithful to finish the race.

            (2) To persevere in the race of faith: Different with all races in a stadium, all the faithful who finish in the race of faith shall receive a reward. Therefore, the importance in the race of faith doesn’t depend on the speed, but on the perseverance to finish the race.

2.2/ Let us always look to Jesus, the pioneer and the one who perfects of our faith.

            People fight for a purpose; and the ultimate purpose of life helps people to overcome all trials and sufferings of their life. For example, Jesus incarnated and endured all sufferings for God’s will to be fulfilled. In other words, because of the joy of bringing salvation for all people, Jesus “endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” The same thing happens to us, because of the hope of receiving the salvation which Jesus endured sufferings to produce, we are ready to overcome all sufferings of our life as Jesus did.

            In our life, we often experience those who were helped by us, didn’t appreciate our help but also criticized or maltreated us, though we tried our best. When we confront such people, let us look up on the cross to receive consolation from a person, who also experienced as such when he died for our sins. The whole life of Jesus is the life of teaching and healing; but people responded by insult, blasphemy, a thorny crown and nailing him on the cross. Comparing with what Jesus had been through, our sufferings can’t be compared with his sufferings. Therefore, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews gave us his advice, “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”

 

3/ Gospel: The truth shall cause division.

           

3.1/ Jesus’ desire: He said, “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!” Fire has at least three uses which are: to light up, to purify and to heat.

            (1) Jesus enlightens people by his teaching;

            (2) When people live by God’s word, all falsities and bad habits shall be purged out of their soul;

            (3) When people recognize God’s love for them, all hatred and division shall be replaced with love; they shall not be lonely anymore because God is always with them.

            Therefore, the fire which Jesus casted into the world and wants it to kindle is God’s truth and love. Jesus continues, “I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished!” The baptism which Jesus mentions here is the baptism by blood which is his Passion and Death. This baptism is only finished when he is nailed to the cross to show his boundless love for people.

3.2/ Does Jesus come to cause division?

            Jesus causes a surprise for many people when he said, “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” Many people shall ask why a peaceful God brings division!

            God’s peace is different with human peace, and the way to have God’s peace is also different with human way to have peace. Human peace is only artificial and temporal because it is based on human knowledge; and war can happen anytime when there is a conflict between human understandings. God gives peace to people not by human way, as Jesus clearly stated, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (Jn 14:27). God’s peace can only be achieved when all people recognize the truth in God’s mystery of salvation and His love for human beings.

            Since God’s truth is different with human truth, so Jesus’ teaching shall cause division: Some believed in Jesus’ teaching as his apostles and disciples; some opposed and didn’t believe him as some Scribes, Pharisees and Romans. The latter found a way to destroy Christ and his disciples. Same thing shall happen when Jesus’ teaching is sowed in a household: Some members of the household shall believe them; some shall not believe and oppose other members. As a result, the household is divided. If all members of the household recognize the truth and believe in Jesus, then that household shall have the true peace, and no worldly power can destroy this true peace.

           

III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:

            - The truth hurts but only the truth can liberates. Let God’s words permeate all of our soul to purify all bad habits in us.

            - We are the prophets of truth; we must have courage to speak and to witness for the truth even we might pay the price by receiving hatred, persecution or even death.

            - If we share in Christ’s sufferings, then we shall also share in his glory in God’s heavenly kingdom. We know for sure that the truth shall be vindicated.

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