HOMILY THE 20TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C
THEME: A RACE OF FAITH
BY: Rev Fr Stephen Oladayo Osinkoya
HOMILY FOR SUNDAY AUGUST 14 2022
Jeremiah 38:4-6. 8-10
Today we live in a world where everybody does whatever he considers best for himself. There is almost nothing objectively morally good or bad. The correctness of any action seems to be determined by the situation that warrants the action. It is in the face of these moral challenges in our world today that we are presented with the story of the prophet Jeremiah in the first reading.
In the first reading, Jeremiah is persecuted by the powers that be because he was considered to be politically incorrect in his objection to Judah’s armed resistance to the siege of Nebuchadnezzar. People were suffering, but the army kept the war going, aggravating the situation of the people. Jeremiah strongly objected to this and predicted doom if the king Zedekiah did not change his plans – they will be defeated and Jerusalem would be destroyed. He warned that instead of revolt and armed resistance, repentance from their sinful ways was the only way out of the siege. But this was politically incorrect for the authorities and Jeremiah was thrown into a muddy well in an attempt to silence him. But through the plea of Ebed-melech Jeremiah was set free from the well. Because Jeremiah was not afraid to be seen as politically incorrect, hence he had problem with almost everybody.
The second reading, taken from the Letter to the Hebrews also speaks about this struggle, described as a race of faith. St Paul invites us to do away with the burden of sin as we continue in the race, keeping our focus on Jesus, the author and the finisher of our faith.
Beloved in Christ, the race of faith we are running is a very challenging and disturbing one. The risk involved in this race is the fire that Jesus is talking about. In the gospel, we are presented with a fierier Jesus than the Jesus of “peace” that we are used to in the gospel passages. Jesus tells us in His own words: I have come to bring fire to the earth and how I wish it were burning already… Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. This is a metaphor, but a strong one. In Jewish though, fire is usually seen as a symbol of God’s judgment and it is not something we can be indifferent to. It is alive and active element that burns as well refines.
As Christians, we are called to be resolute in our course for truth, justice and peace in the world.
Injustice and corruption prevails in our society today because even the so called “good people” (our religious leaders) are silent about the conditions of our society. Worst still, many are forming alliance with perpetrators of the evil in our society. They want to be politically correct even when they know falsehood is being enthroned as the truth. When Jeremiah didn’t want to be seen as politically incorrect and he chose to remain silent, there was an inner conflict within him. “There seems to be a fire burning in my heart” (Jer. 20:9). If fire for the cause of justice, truth and peace does not burn in our hearts then we have not started to be Christians. The fire that Jesus is talking about is that energy within us that motivates us to keep struggling in our pursuit of what is right and just despite external oppositions that may come.
Today, so many want to soften (lessen) the teachings of Jesus so that everyone will be happy, so that everyone will have the peace of no opposition. But let us remember that Jesus himself didn’t just accept anything nor was he tolerant with all people and every situation. Had He accepted anything and everything He would never have been put to death in a horrible crucifixion. His teaching and His way of living enraged the religious and political powers of His day. This is the very reason the second reading urges to be courageous after the example of Christ our leader who endured the suffering of the cross for our sake, but today is exalted in glory at the right hand of the father in glory.
Beloved in Christ, when we stand for Jesus, he would stand for us too when we need him most. Hence, the psalmist says: “I waited for the Lord and he stopped down to me, he heard my cry…” We cannot please men and displease God. Let us be courageous and not lose faith, for one day we shall receive the crown of unfading glory.
*Rev Fr Stephen Oladayo Osinkoya*