20th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
August 18, 2013

You know the kind … they come into your life and that of others and they don’t leave without getting you affected in a good way. They leave you all fired up; all geared for action … You find yourself raring to do more; be more, and dream for more, aim higher and do better in every way.

They are called firebrands. They are also called visionaries. Some call them leaders. And these leaders are such because they are primarily servants. They do more than just talk. Talk is cheap, as they say. They talk the talk and walk their talk. And in the process, they show us the way to the higher, the greater, the nobler and the better.

Leaders like them are not wishy-washy. Neither are they mere romantic dreamers who cannot do more than pen pushing. Like St. Maximilian Kolbe, whose feast we celebrated just a few days ago, they are ready and willing to lay down their lives like Christ did, for their sheep.

Today’s readings are unsettling – even frightening. The Lord talks about “divisions” and about “setting fire on earth.” St. Paul, too, talks about “perseverance” in “running the race.” And  the first reading would have us think about the fate Jeremiah suffered – ending up in a muddy hole, just because he wouldn’t say what the power-that-be expected him to say, and what he wanted to hear.

They talk about heroism. They speak about daring to be different. They follow the beatings of a different drum. And just what do those drums sound like?

I might not be able to describe it but I can tell you what it is not like …

It is not following the bandwagon. It is not about business as usual. It is not about following the fad and getting co-opted by what is fashionable.

It is about making a stand. For the right … for what is moral, not simply for what is legal.

We live in a wicked world. The trouble in Egypt is much too biased against Christians, and on the whole destructive of human dignity, for all, not just for believers. The news of organized and unparalleled corruption in high places in our country is news that is not just shocking, but dream-shattering, and morally enervating. Mainstream media and show business culture is progressively dehumanizing. Sin is slathered all over the known institutions of so called civil society and beyond. And it is spelled, more often than not, as greed and selfishness.

The Lord expects us to take a stand. The Lord counsels us to “set fire on earth.” And he even adds for good measure that nepotism, relationships, by blood or other forms of affinity, should not cover for what is objectively wrong. We are called to stand up for what is right, cost what might. And here blood affinity and the like, should not overshadow what is right.

It is difficult not to follow the trend. It demands heroism and entails suffering – exactly the same suffering that Jeremiah got when he refused to kowtow to the wishes of the King. He landed in the muddy well.

I ask my readers to pray for Egypt and our suffering brethren therein. And may I add for you consideration the country I belong to and love, now seething with muffled rage at so much institutionalized corruption involving people in high places. May that fire that we are called to set keep burning in our hearts and may the same hearts be perpetually lit by zeal for what is right.