Deacon Steven Johnson’s Reflection – October 21, 2021
Reflection for the 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Thursday, 10-21-21, Year B
Readings: Rom 6:19-23, Psalm 1:1-2,3,4&6, Gospel Lk 12:49-53
Theme: God First
A gold ring does not just come forth from the earth as a shiny, perfectly round, object ready to wear. It starts out as a crusty, dirt-filled chunk known as gold ore. In ancient days, the crude binding matter and gold metal were separated via heat in a smelting process. Temperatures need to reach 1947 degrees Fahrenheit in order to melt gold. In the smelting process, impurities are burned off or separated from the gold material in the crucible and removed. The heat and separation render a substantially pure gold metal that then can be formed in a mold, press, or forge process. Further finishing touches of the hand then make a perfectly round, shining ring.
Through mining of the gold ore, pulverization, washing, heating, melting, separation, casting, pounding, hammering, grinding, and polishing, the rough ore becomes a precious object to be cherished. In many ways, we can be like raw gold ore, needing intervention to become our purest selves. It is a process that can occur over time if we are open to listening to God’s promptings.
Christ says in today’s Gospel that He has come to set the world on fire, and how He wished it was already blazing. Christ’s use of a burning fire for the earth is not meant to destroy the earth by actual fire, rather, that He wants to start a fire in our hearts that will burn for the love of God and the worship he is due. He wants us to be purified by His word and be transformed from ignorance and maleficence into a pure form of holiness that only comes from the removal of our sinful impurities.
How does Christ accomplish this? He does it through the baptism with which He must be baptized. In other words, He must suffer His passion and death and be raised on the third day in order to provide the heat for our purification so we can be molded, shaped, and polished for salvation.
Unlike gold ore, which has no choice in whether it gets mined and purified and stays in the earth as raw ore, we have a choice to be put through the purification process of Christ’s teaching. Not all of us will accept this invitation. Many will reject it, not believe it, or be indifferent to it because of the impurities of the secular world that cling to them.
Many will refuse to have these impurities burned off and be transformed into the pure version of themselves, one of holiness that God has intended for all of us. Why? Because they have convinced themselves that what they are doing here on earth grants them a pass into heaven through presumption of God’s approval of their works. We must put God and all His teaching first in our lives. Do we love the environment and work to save it but fail to do anything to worship God first who created the environment? Do we participate in charitable works, but ignore God’s gift of grace that inspired that work to begin with? Do we stand in the square and proclaim freedom of choice and alternative lifestyles in the name of love, yet fail to give any thought to God or His natural law and beauty of life within each man, woman, and child as they were created by Him?
Do you think Christ came to establish peace on earth? No, rather division. Christ knew that His teachings would be divisive. It was prophesized by Simeon in the temple at Christ’s presentation to the Lord as a baby by Mary and Joseph. Simeon said to Mary, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted” (Lk 2:34-35). Jesus knew that following Him would be hard to accept for many who cannot see beyond an earthly life. For those who do follow Christ’s teachings (without distortion, twisted theology or poor interpretations), they will find division and separation from others, and it will be painful. For us humans, it is very hard to put someone else ahead of ourselves, but that is exactly what Christ teaches. God first, then our neighbor, and finally our good works.
Jesus’s friend, Martha, learned this lesson in Luke 10:38-42 where Martha, upon meeting Jesus and His disciples, immediately began to wait on them; serving, hosting, and caring for them while Mary, her sister, sat on the floor listening to Him. Martha was frustrated that Mary was not helping. Jesus, said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” The lesson here is no matter how good the works are that we do, if we do not put God first and recognize His presence, those works are void of God’s grace that should have flowed through us into them. Martha eventually came to realize this and got it right later in John 11:19-27 at the death of her brother, Lazarus, where she said, “I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”
Christ knew that not all would accept His teaching, and He warned that many of those will be within our own families. He put into no uncertain terms that God must be first in all things in our lives, even over our own family, including brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, and children.
St. Paul is saying the same thing in his letter to the Romans. Before we came to know Christ, we presented our bodies as slaves to impurity and lawlessness for lawlessness. But now, after knowing Christ, we should present our bodies as slaves to righteousness for sanctification. We need to take the earthen ore of our mind and body and allow ourselves to be smelted in the furnace of Christ’s teaching so that we may be purified into righteousness for God, free from the impurities of sin.
“Blessed the man who follows not
the council of the wicked
Nor walks in the way of sinners,”
“But delights in the law of the Lord
and meditates on his laws day and night.”
“Not so the wicked, not so;
they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
For the Lord watches over the way of the just,
but the way of the wicked vanishes.”