20th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Living in the Tension
The other morning, one of my twins woke up very early. So early in fact, that the breakfast I usually have sitting out for the boys was not yet ready. The part of the counter where it is always laid out was bare. He threw up his arms dramatically and said “Mom, where is my breakfast and why are you not making it!?” Oh boy. He’s four. And he is testing the waters of how to respond to me and to others in a loving way. Clearly, this is not the way to ask your mom who has been up since 4:00AM for breakfast. But he did. I paused, got down to his level, and said “Honey, that is not how we talk to people. What should you say instead?” Sheepishly, he looked up at me and said “Please?” We are all works in progress, aren’t we?
The readings for this week are rough. It took me a little while and a lot of research online to think through the Gospel reading from Luke. Then, I randomly found a line in a homily prep website that said this about Jesus at this point in the gospel – “He is caught in a terrible tension between the reality of God’s love and the reality of the world to which, in his own person, that divine love reaches out.” He is caught in a tension between what he knows God’s love to be and the reality of the world He is in. Perhaps we all feel that way these days… this tension inside of us that exists between hope and the reality we see on the news as we scroll through each day. There is another tension as well, I propose – the tension in ourselves between the person God is calling us to be and the person that actually shows up in the world. I watch my little ones struggling through this even at their young age. My son’s response to me in the kitchen the other morning, for example. Or the fact that my older son felt it necessary to slap his brother the next day for sitting in his seat. In the end, I can see them wrestling with things, trying to figure out what is right and what is wrong – what is loving and what is not.
In the Gospel today, the Lord says: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing.” He came to shake things up, and that kind of internal and external shake up is not easy. It means vulnerability. It means struggle. It is difficult to wrestle with who we are and who we want to be. It is difficult to be counter-cultural and to work with hope towards a world where no one is left out, no one is despised, where everyone has dignity.
But we are not alone. The Lord rested in that tension too, and He invites us to be present to the tension… always seeking to be a community that spreads light, hope, and love.