14 August – 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time (& Vigil Mass for Solemnity of the Assumption of Blessed Virgin Mary)
Today we post two sets of Sunday readings and reflections. The second set is for the Vigil Mass on the evening before the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (on Monday), where in some regions of the world, it is celebrated on the Sunday.
20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The king’s leading men spoke to the king. ‘Let Jeremiah be put to death: he is unquestionably disheartening the remaining soldiers in the city, and all the people too, by talking like this. The fellow does not have the welfare of this people at heart so much as its ruin.’ ‘He is in your hands as you know,’ King Zedekiah answered ‘for the king is powerless against you.’ So they took Jeremiah and threw him into the well of Prince Malchiah in the Court of the Guard, letting him down with ropes. There was no water in the well, only mud, and into the mud Jeremiah sank.
Ebed-melech came out from the palace and spoke to the king. ‘My lord king,’ he said ‘these men have done a wicked thing by treating the prophet Jeremiah like this: they have thrown him into the well, where he will die.’ At this the king gave Ebed-melech the Cushite the following order: ‘Take three men with you from here and pull the prophet Jeremiah out of the well before he dies.’
With so many witnesses in a great cloud on every side of us, we too, then, should throw off everything that hinders us, especially the sin that clings so easily, and keep running steadily in the race we have started. Let us not lose sight of Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection: for the sake of the joy which was still in the future, he endured the cross, disregarding the shamefulness of it, and from now on has taken his place at the right of God’s throne. Think of the way he stood such opposition from sinners and then you will not give up for want of courage. In the fight against sin, you have not yet had to keep fighting to the point of death.
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already! There is a baptism I must still receive, and how great is my distress till it is over!
‘Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on a household of five will be divided: three against two and two against three; the father divided against the son, son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’
Do you think I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.
In every family, there will come a time when one has to decide whether to hold one’s tongue or speak up to correct an injustice, and risk being ostracized. It’s all well and good to be supportive and try to keep the peace. After all, we’re encouraged to band together to protect one another and preserve our way of life. But what if that way of life is flawed? Do we still hold our silence, because family comes before fairness? There’s an old saying, that it takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a village to abuse one. That’s the case with any form of abuse though, isn’t it? Child, spousal, parental, even animal. Darkness prevails because good people are silent. What happens when we see something but do nothing about it? Doesn’t that make us complicit then, an accessory to wrong-doing?
Jeremiah didn’t shy away from conflict, not even when it landed him, quite literally, in a pile of sh*t. He embraced being ostracized. Wanting to be well-liked welds us to the collective and is its own form of captivity. We are silenced by our need to belong. Jesus was even more controversial, going so far as to say, “I have come to set the earth on fire…”. He wasn’t worried about fitting in. He didn’t care who he upset. What about us? Do we take our ‘peace keeping’ so seriously that we are ready to compromise our values and morals?
“In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood” (Heb 12:4). Our Christ showed us the way, enduring the cross for our sakes. When he died, he died alone, true to his message and his mission. He shed blood, sweat and tears for us. So what then, are we willing to shed for him? What are we willing to sacrifice to fulfil his mission for us?
(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for the strength to take the high road, even when that road is a hard and lonely one.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the Holy Spirit, that inspires us and informs our conscience, that informs our moral compass and grants us the ability to discern right from wrong.
Solemnity of Assumption of BVM: Vigil Mass
1 Chronicles 15:3-4,15-16,16:1-2
David gathered all Israel together to bring the ark of God up to the place he had prepared for it. David called together the sons of Aaron and the sons of Levi. And the Levites carried the ark of God with the shafts on their shoulders, as Moses had ordered in accordance with the word of the Lord.
David then told the heads of the Levites to assign duties for their kinsmen as cantors, with their various instruments of music, harps and lyres and cymbals, to play joyful tunes.
They brought the ark of God in and put it inside the tent that David had pitched for it; and they offered holocausts before God, and communion sacrifices. And when David had finished offering holocausts and communion sacrifices, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord.
1 Corinthians 15:54-57
When this perishable nature has put on imperishability, and when this mortal nature has put on immortality, then the words of scripture will come true: Death is swallowed up in victory. Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting? Now the sting of death is sin, and sin gets its power from the Law. So let us thank God for giving us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
As Jesus was speaking, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said, ‘Happy the womb that bore you and the breasts you sucked!’ But he replied, ‘Still happier those who hear the word of God and keep it!’
Blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it
Ever since Dad passed away in January, I’ve become obsessed with death, grief and the passing of things. What actually happens when we die? No one has ever come back to inform the living, not directly at least, and not in our lifetimes. Is my father in heaven? Is he in purgatory? Is he at peace or in pain? Does purgatory hurt? My mother, a huge champion of the faith, tells me that I ought to be more diligent with offering up masses for him because it will speed up his purification. She is convinced that it works. And I, knowing no better, can’t rebut her on it. Does it work? Is he really at peace? People tell me Dad’s in a better place. How would they know, if they’ve never been there themselves?
“Blessed are those who hear the word of God, and observe it” (Lk 11:28). Our Blessed Virgin Mary did that – “she treasured all these messages and continually pondered over them.” (Lk 2:19). She didn’t know better, but she didn’t feel the need to either. She just believed. Her faith informed her and it was enough. She took in faith that what was proclaimed by the angel would come true. It was enough to accept the path her son would have to walk, she didn’t need all the details upfront. True observance of The Word requires that we believe and accept because that’s the definition of faith – “…faith is the assurance of what we hope for, the certainty of what we cannot see” (Heb 11:1). Our risen Christ said to Thomas, “You believe because you see me, don’t you? Happy are those who have not seen and believe” (Jn 20:29). And so we are told to take in faith that with death, the faithful are ushered into a new arising.
I’m trying to make peace with it. In searching for answers, I’ve turned to Scripture and the analogies that Christ left for us about the transforming power of death – “…unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much fruit” (Jn 12: 24). I don’t completely understand the full weight of the verse, but in my heart, there is some comfort that perhaps death is but a new beginning, a new arising? Maybe Dad really is happier and in a better place. I just have to take it in faith.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for those who have left the land of the living, that they have found peace with God and are free from pain and suffering.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the mercy, healing and redeeming power of Christ, who saves us from our self doubts.