Ordinary 20th Sunday – DISTURB US, O LORD!

Ordinary 20th Sunday

Jer. 38: 4-6, 8-10                      Heb. 2:1-4                                Lk. 12: 49-53



Disturbance, though apparently looks to be negative and unpleasant, does a lot of good for us.


An Uneasy Calmness:

There was a youngster who developed a wound in his hand. It was rather painful. But he did not do much about it. After sometimes, it so happened that the sore was covered by an outer layer of hard cells which gave him an impression that the wound was healed. Though deep down the wound remained with so much of pus and it gave the boy a seething pain, he did not care to go  to a doctor. He preferred to be at home with it. When his parents forcefully took him to a doctor, who put his knife on the wound, the boy shouted that the doctor was doing much worse to him because the doctor created so much of pain for him.

Quite often we are like this boy. We carry a lot of deeper restlessness and inner contradictions. Yet outwardly we want things to be peaceful and calm. If someone disturbs this ‘calmness’ we get angry at him/her. Many of us don’t seem to realize that the so-called disturbance may be a communication from God so that we work on our inner contradictions and try to establish a real, lasting peace.

Exactly this was the situation of the Israelites in the   6th century B.C. Zedekiah, the king, the courtiers and even the ordinary people – all closed their eyes to the evils of the society. There was so much of inequality, injustice and abandoning of God’s commandments. And nobody cared about it. When one section of the society indulged in all sorts of evils, another section of the society, which was the victim of all the evils, not knowing what to do, kept their eyes and mouth shut. Everything looked to be ‘calm’ and ‘peaceful.’

Disturbing the Uneasy Calmness

It was at this time that Jeremiah appeared on the scene and, through his youthful vigour and soul-searching preaching, tried to stir the minds and hearts of people. He made ripples in the society. His message was a shock to the rich and the powerful, and a disturbance to the benumbed masses – the masses which reeled under ignorance and poverty. He claimed that people were dead spiritually and there was no much of life in them. He told them that, though outwardly there seems to be quietness, deep down things are not alright. He preached that people were much away from God, from one another and even from themselves. He also said that the consequence would be severe – they would be handed over to the Babylonians as slaves.

This ‘disturbance’ that Jeremiah created was a sort of negative and destructive thing in the eyes of his enemies. They said, “This man ought to be put to death, because he is discouraging the soldiers who are left in this city, and all the people, by speaking such words to them. For this man is not seeking the welfare of this people, but their harm.” Even the words of Jesus in the gospel have a tone that disturbs the seemingly peaceful situation. He says, “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!” Here Jesus is not certainly against peace. Rather he is against what seems to be externally peaceful, but internally restless.

If we analyse the seemingly negative approaches of Jeremiah and Jesus, then we would understand that they carry a highly optimistic tone and serve a positive purpose. It is to help people discover the real and true peace that lies deep beneath within ourselves. In each human being, there are two layers: outer and inner. Many of our efforts are just to calm down the outer layer which is done by the so-called pleasant things. However in the inner layer, there is so much of emptiness, restlessness which we normally don’t look into. Prophets are the ones who invites people to stir themselves so that people go beyond their outer layer, which seems to be calm, and look into the inner layer where there is so much of restlessness. Since it is rather difficult to work on the inner layer, many try to conveniently forget it and work on only the outer aspects of life.

Towards the Real Peace:

It is the normal human tendency to divide everything into pleasant and unpleasant categories. Pleasant are those things which are pleasing to us, which are in line with our likings, and which go hand in hand with our expectations. Unpleasant are those things which irritate us and which go contrary to our expectations. It is also human tendency to wish and pray for more pleasant things and less unpleasant things in life. We have a thought pattern which makes us believe that the more pleasant things we have in our lives, the happier we are. It is for this purpose that we work day and night. All that we try to do in our pursuit for happiness is to increase those things that offer us pleasant feeling and decrease those things that make us unpleasant. In fact we pray to God for the same.

Even though it is true that pleasant things make us happy, they have a negative side. They don’t much help us to grow. It is those things that we call unpleasant, which help us to grow. During the unpleasant moments, we feel unsettled, perplexed and perturbed, and all these feelings propel us to bring out our hidden resources in order to deal with the so-called unpleasant situation. It is this process that we call as growth.

Prophets are the ones who constantly put people in the mode of unsettlement in order to help them to reach their full potential. Jeremiah was such a prophet. In a situation in which the king and the rich compromised with all sorts of evil and unjust activities and felt no qualm about it, Jeremiah, by his vigorous and powerful preaching, began to unsettle them. He invited them to stir themselves so that they would become aware of themselves and change themselves. In the second reading, the author of the book of the Hebrews instructed the early Christians, who were persecuted for the sake of their faith, to make use of suffering to get closer to God.

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