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Homily for twentirth Sunday, year C

17 Aug 2019, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Sermons

The prophet Jeremiah was a great prophet of God, even though some people saw him as a prophet of doom because he spoke the truth. He was ignored and maltreated; some refer to him as the weeping prophet. He warned the people about the coming doom, about the destruction of Jerusalem for their iniquities. However, the king of Judah was misguided to approved the implementation of the wicked desires of the leading men against Jeremiah, so Jeremiah was thrown into a well to die, but thank God his life was saved.

Jeremiah came with God’s word, and that provoked anger in the people; he came with fire because God says in Jeremiah 23:29 that his word is like fire and a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces.

In our gospel passage, Jesus said: “I come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled. In other words, I, the word of God, has come into the world; the fire of the word of God has come into the word. Jesus did not come with a distractive fire, and we see that clearly in his response to James and John’s request to call down fire to consume or destroy. They were on the way to Jerusalem, and they had to pass through Samaritan village, but they were not received in Samaria, probably because of the tension between the Jews and the Samaritans. Then, James and John said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven to consume them? But Jesus rebuked them and went on to another village. Jn. 9: 51-56.

The fire Jesus came with is a purifying fire, the fire that purifies us from every impurity. He said to the apostle in John 15:3, “You are already purified by the word I have spoken to you.” When we abide in the word of God, we are purified.

The fire of Christ is not of judgment and condemnation but love. How I wish, the Lord says, that fire is kindled already. His coming into the world is all about love, “For God, so love the world that he gave his only Son.”

The word of God is powerful; it is a revelation, it reveals. Jeremiah, through the word of God, revealed what was going to happen to Jerusalem and how to avert it, but he wasn’t listened to, and the word of God came to pass as prophesied.

Today, the word of God is still revealing things, revealing how much God loves us and inviting us to that baptismal font where we first met with him to renew our commitments. Therefore, let us embrace this fire of God’s love to kindle in us the love for God and our neighbors.

In our gospel, Jesus asked a shocking question; “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth?” And he said, “No, I tell you, but rather division…” How would the prince of peace say he did not come to bring peace but division; dividing families? Father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother and so on. We can see this as a kind of fulfillment of Simeon’s prophecies; yes, when Jesus was presented in the temple, Simeon calls the child a sign of contradiction that would lead to the fall and rise of many in Israel. If the father embraces the fire of God’s love and the son rejects it, they are divided. We see that division already in our societies, where the younger generation no longer shows interest in their fathers’ faith. But we pray the fire of God’s love we embrace today to unite us and keep us as people of faith. Amen.