HOMILY FOR THE 20TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME OF THE YEAR C
THEME: THE FATE OF A TRUTH-TELLER (PROPHET)
BY: Rev Fr Gerald Muoka
HOMILY FOR SUNDAY AUGUST 14 2022
R1 – Jer 3:4-6,8-10
R2 – Heb 12:1-4
GOSPEL – Luke 12:49-53
The road of a truth-teller has always been rocky, says John Pichappily. Many years ago, a certain primitive man from an underdeveloped country went on a short visit to the United States of America. He was filled with wonder at all the miracles of sight and sound in New York City. When he returned to his native village he told his people the stories of a building that rose into the very face of the sky; of the street cars, which he described as houses which moved along the trail, of the mammoth bridges, artificial lights and all the dazzling things of the metropolitan city. Many of the people could not believe him. Those who did not believe him looked at him coldly and walked away. The villagers called him a liar. He carried that name, “the liar,” to his grave.
Beloved in Christ, indeed, the road of the truth-teller has always been rocky. As a result of telling God’s truth according to His command, many of the prophets were killed, says John Pichappily. Jeremiah died at the hands of his own people. Socrates who led people to truth through reason, was sentenced to die by drinking poison. Jesus was crucified. St. Stephen was stoned. Mahatma Gandhi, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Archbishop Saint Oscar Romero were shot to death.
The entire readings of this Sunday’s liturgy invite us to reflect deeply on the fate of a true prophet of God (truth-teller). The word prophet, from its Greek coinage, “prophḗtēs,” suggests, “one who speaks for another.” And in the religious sense, “someone who declares the mind (message) of God, which sometimes predicts the future (foretelling).” So, the mouthpiece of God is entitled to the truth, whether it hurts or whether it is favourable to the targeted audience.
In the first reading, we see the fate of Jeremiah, a truth-teller; a mouthpiece of God, who communicates the mind of God to the Israelites. The truth was so bitter and the message quite fiery,
to the point of dividing the city and inciting such an opposition that people could not contain it and they sought his death.
Standing in this prophetic tradition of truth-telling, Paul, in the second reading, challenges the Judeo-Christians to stand firm in their Faith in Jesus, ignoring the ostracism imposed on them by their own former Jewish community.
While in the Gospel reading, Jesus manifests prophetic courage and conviction. Jesus, the Prince of peace invites his disciples, to a holy war against sin and evil forces
He preached the most fiery preachings most preachers in this time would find quite difficult to preach. He dished it out raw, without minding whose ox is gored.
The message of Jesus brings love, compassion, harmony, peace. It brings people together so that there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free, male or female… But it also of its nature challenges injustice, corruption, discrimination, abuse, dishonesty, and all attacks on human dignity.
*THE FATE OF THE TRUTH-TELLER*
The decision to follow Christ can meet harsh rejection, because, there is no comfortable way of following Jesus. The truth is always bitter and always meets oppositions. The truth-teller is a bearer of Christ, who is the truth (Jn 14:6).
In the scriptures, we see the mission of the following truth-tellers threatened by strong oppositions who conceived their truth-telling mission a threatening and a bitter enterprise, targeted at destroying their reputation and dividing their empire:
(i) Elijah was to Ahab and Jezebel a truth-teller whose prophecies were bitter and distasteful (1Kgs 17 -21)
(ii) John the Baptist, was a truth-teller whose presence and message to Herod and Herodias was a threat (Mtt. 14).
(iii) Jeremiah was a truth-teller whose prophecies spelt doom for his kinsmen (Jer. 38).
(iv) What about Amos who was expelled from the Northern Kingdom with an automatum to go cease the truth-telling mission be it was was bitter and the powers that be abhorred it.
(v) The presence Jesus was a thorn on the flesh of the Pharisees, Sadducees and the Temple high priests
The reason why truth-tellers meet oppositions is because their mission entails unraveling that which is hidden. They unravel the truth as against falsehood; they ignite the fire that quenches darkness and evil. So, they become targets of all agents and princes of darkness and perpetrators of evil.
However, the Greek rook of truth, “aletheia,” suggests, unconcealedness”, “disclosure”, “revealing”, or “unclosedness.” So a truth-teller is one who reveals, discloses or unravels what is hidden and the world is afraid of reality and the truth, that is why all evil plans and action are perpetuated in the dark.
Jeremiah’s predicament in today’s liturgy serves as a model that enlightens us to understand the fate of the truth-teller (prophet) which we are all supposed to be by the virtue of our baptism.
Moreover, whenever we want to stand out for Christ and His Gospel, we must get ready to face opposition. The direct opposites of the cause we defend must stand to challenge us. But Jesus assures us that the gate of hell shall never overcome or prevail against his church (Mtt. 16:18).
*THE FIRE OF THE TRUTH-TELLER*
The fundamental question we ask ourselves in today’s liturgy is:,”Why did Jesus associate his mission on earth with fire? “I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already” (Lk 12:49)
The saying that Jesus has come to set the earth on fire, and bring division instead of peace, has been understood in several ways by Christians and non-Christians.
According to Sanchez Archives, Fire has the following scriptural significations:
(1) Symbol of purification (for example, Nm 31:23; Ez 22:19-22), and, more often, is associated with God’s judgment (for example, Jdt 16:17; Is 66:16; Am 7:4; 2 Pt 3:7).
(2) Symbol of God’s glory (Ez 1:4, 13), His protective presence (2 Kgs 6:17), His holiness (Dt 4:24), His righteous judgment (Zec 13:9), and His wrath against sin (Is 66:15-16).
(3) Symbol of the Holy Spirit (Mt 3:11 and Acts 2:3). Fire has many characteristics: it warms, purifies, refines, transforms, and burns.
(4) As a purifying force, fire burns up what is useless and refines what is impure besides giving warmth and energy. Elijah brought the fire of judgment on the prophets of Baal (1 Kgs 18:36-40) and the soldiers of King Ahaziah (2 Kgs 1:10-14).
John the Baptist promises that Jesus “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire”(Mt 3:11), and that promise was fulfilled at Pentecost.
James and John wanted to call down fire from Heaven upon the Samaritans who rejected Jesus, but Jesus would not permit it (Lk 9:54).
We are also reminded of the prophet’s words, “For he is like a refiner’s fire…” (Mal 3:2). The fire burns hot, removing impurities and leaving only that which is desirable. These meanings suggest that the fire which Jesus brings will consume or purify the world. However, it is also possible that he means that his baptism will be a baptism of fire.
(1) *THERE IS NO COMFORTABLE WAY OF FOLLOWING JESUS*
The Christian life cannot be lived from our comfort zones. It doesn’t entail doing things our own way, rather, the way of Christ, which can be rigorous and discomforting, against our whims and caprices. Jeremiah’s ordeals wouldn’t have erupted, if he had chosen to be on his own. His response to God’s call became the cradle of his predicaments as a truth-teller. So, once we make up our minds to follow Jesus, we must be ready to face oppositions because the scripture says, “For it is not against human enemies that we have to struggle, but against the principalities and the ruling forces who are masters of the darkness in this world, the spirits of evil in the heavens,” (Ephesians 6:12).
(2) *WE SHOULD COURAGEOUSLY LIVE OUT OUR RELIGIOUS CONVICTIONS AND PRINCIPLES*
Another important lesson we derive home from today’s liturgy is the need to courageously live out our religious convictions and principles in our lives. The Christian life requires rigorous discipline and convictions that must be strictly adhered to. A Christian should not live anyhow or conform to the worldly standards, rather according to Christ’s model and those of the saints. We see Jeremiah in the first reading, and our Lord Jesus in the Gospel reading, as those we ought to emulate in our truth-telling mission.
Finally, in the 1920s, an English adventurer named Mallory led an expedition to conquer Mount Everest. His first, second, and even his third attempt with an experienced team met with failure. Upon his return to England, the few who had survived held a banquet to salute Mallory and those who had perished. As he stood up to speak, he looked around he saw picture frames of himself and those who had died. Then he turned his back on the crowd and faced a large picture of Mount Everest looming large like an unbeatable giant. With tears streaming down his face, he spoke to the mountain on behalf of his dead friends: “I 6 to you Mt. Everest, in the name of all brave men living, and those yet unborn. Mt. Everest, you defeated us once, you defeated us twice; you defeated us three times. But Mt. Everest, we shall someday defeat you, because you can’t get any bigger, but we can.”
Beloved, what a manifestation of courage and conviction. May we learn to confront the world with prophetic courage of our Christian conviction.
OH LORD! MAY WE LEARN TO ALWAYS TELL THE TRUTH AND CONFRONT THE WORLD WITH PROPHETIC COURAGE AND CONVICTIONS.
*GOD BLESS YOU!*