August 14, Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle C. Readings:
1) Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10
Psalm 40:2-4, 18
2) Hebrews 12:1-4
Gospel: Luke 12:49-53
By Jean Denton
Catholic News Service
I live at the edge of Appalachia, where I’m awed every day by the beauty of the mountains. But despite a sense of serenity, I know the scene before me is not at peace.
The paradox of the Appalachian region is well-known: Its natural beauty and rich culture belie a continuing struggle with environmental exploitation and poverty.
An inspiring, ongoing story I covered as a reporter for my diocesan newspaper was the work of the church advocating for justice in Appalachia. Over recent decades, much of that mission has been carried out at the grass roots by the Catholic Committee of Appalachia, an active group of religious and laypeople living and laboring with the people, lifting a prophetic voice against such degradation as mountaintop removal, industrial pollution and myriad social problems that come with endemic poverty.
The Holy Spirit is at work among God’s faithful people there, characteristically stirring up conflict. Characteristically?
In this week’s Gospel, Jesus asks, “Do you think I have come to establish peace on earth?”
On the contrary, he states, he intends to set the earth on fire, bringing division and, yes, that can mean conflict even among our brothers and sisters in Christ.
A stark example is the struggle for justice in Appalachia, alive with Christ’s Spirit as the members of the church grapple with their differences of opinion on environmental issues.
Members of the Catholic Committee of Appalachia last year applauded Pope Francis’ encyclical on the global threat of climate change. The pope’s words appeared to speak directly to conditions in Appalachia as he described the critical depletion of the earth’s natural resources and its particular impact on the poor.
But the response of some local dioceses differed from the committee’s. They disagreed on the environmental and economic impact some of the document’s proposals would have on the region as well as on how to address the problems it raised. Nevertheless, the committee encouraged all the bishops of Appalachia to engage the church in the concerns and conflicts raised by “Laudato Si’,” even though the conversation may be contentious.
So it is with many issues our church faces, but in bequeathing his Spirit to his disciples, Jesus baptized us in fire and calls us to work through the conflicts to accomplish his will.
How would you describe the attitude of Jesus in this Gospel? When have you witnessed the Spirit of Christ working through conflict?