“I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!”

Sister Clara Fehringer, OSU, serves as the Parish Life Director at Historic Saint Paul Roman Catholic Church in Lexington, Kentucky. Their mission statement reads:
“We are Catholics making a difference in downtown Lexington. A diverse and inclusive community welcoming everyone with open arms!”

The following is her reflection on the Gospel of Saint Luke, from the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 18, 2019.

Jesus came to set the earth on fire—we hear this in the Gospel. His message can cause a lot of division if lived properly and according to the Gospel we read.

In front of our church we have had many banners throughout the past few years. They generate much discussion and have caused some people to write ugly emails and even leave this parish. Our advocacy for immigrants, refugees, LGBTQ, and even reasonable gun control is absolutely congruent with the Gospel but has caused division. Some say the answer is to be quiet. Others claim we are being “political.” We are actually  being faithful to the Gospel, to Jesus. 

Racism is another hot topic. What would Jesus say about racist behavior, rhetoric, attitudes? His words would cause division, for sure. 

What would Jesus say about ICE raids that separate children from families? 

Would Jesus have strong words for those who use strong words to demean people from other countries, differing sexualities, or different manners of thinking or living?

Today’s Gospel should hit home. Jesus has set a fire and the Gospel causes division. On whose side of the divide are you, am I? Are we on fire with the Gospel? If so, are we willing to take risks to build the community of the beloved?

Jesus: A Cause of Division.
“I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!
There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!
Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?
No, I tell you, but rather division.
From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three;
a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”
—Luke 12:49-53

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He Seems to Have Forgotten

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PHOTO CREDIT: RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
By Ginny Schaeffer, Director of Angela Merici Center for Spirituality

While speaking to a group of law enforcement personnel on June 14th, Attorney General Jeff Sessions used a passage from the Bible (Romans 13: 1-2) in an attempt to garner some divine stamp of approval on the  administration’s “zero policy” towards  refugees and asylum seekers crossing our southern border. This is the same immoral policy that is separating children, some as young as a year old, from their parents.

Jeff Sessions needs to be very careful, as we all do, of how he uses individual scripture passages to champion his actions. He seems to have forgotten that Satan used the same tactic with Jesus in the desert—and it didn’t work that well then, either.

He seems to forget that Jesus, whom he professes to be his Lord and Savior, was, along with Mary and Joseph, refugees and asylum seekers from the violence within their home country when they fled to Egypt to escape Herod’s command that every boy under two years of age should be slaughtered. He forgets that Jesus was in the habit of breaking laws, was known to welcome the alien (Romans and Greeks) and that he cared for those in greatest need.  He forgets that Jesus’ anger was often directed toward those in power who used religion to do harm to those who were most vulnerable and marginalized.

Attorney General Sessions also seems to forget that Jesus, when asked by a scholar of the law, which of all the commandments was the greatest, answered:

The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love
the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind,
and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Mark 12: 29-31

Jesus is very clear. There is no other commandment greater than these two. Whenever a commandment (policy or law) comes in conflict with these two, then these two commandments must take precedence. These commandments empowered Jesus to voice his opposition to those in authority, to break Jewish laws and social taboos, to reach out to the shunned, the weak and to welcome and care for the alien.

Jeff Sessions seems to have forgotten that, as Christians, we are to follow Jesus’ example. Like Jesus, we are to stand up and denounce immoral and evil laws and policies. Like Jesus, we are to care for those in greatest need by welcoming the stranger, feeding the hungry, offering healing to the wounded, visiting those who are imprisoned and setting the oppressed free. Like Jesus, we are called to lay down our lives for one another.

We cannot forget what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

 

What can you do? Listed below are some suggestions:

  • Pray for those who are seeking refuge and asylum in the United States. Remember that the vast majority of us are the beneficiaries of our ancestors who were immigrants and refugees.
  • Pray for our government leaders that their hearts and minds might be open to compassion and wisdom as to how to lawfully and mercifully create policy and laws that heals wounds rather than create them.
  • Contact the White House (https://whitehouse.gov), your senators (https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact) and representative (www.house.gov) and voice your strong opposition to this “zero policy” and that it come to an end immediately.
  • Contact your local Catholic Charities or other charitable organization that supports settling refugees and immigrants in your community. Make a donation. Volunteer.
  • Ask your pastor to preach about this on Sunday. Include asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants in your communal prayers.
  • Find a way to meet with someone who has come to this country seeking a safer and better life for their families. Ask them to share their story with you. Imagine yourself, your children in their situation. What would you have done?