The Gospel this Sunday follows immediately on the parable of the foolish rich man and the wicked servants. The two sayings of Jesus modulate the passage. First, where your treasure is there your heart will be, and second much will be required of the person entrusted with much. Here, his images of fire cast down on the earth and division are a bit apocalyptic and harsh.

In the first reading we are presented with the persecution of Jeremiah who was left to die in a cistern. Jeremiah had lit a fire by the power of his words and symbolic actions in the imagination of the people. He is not a man of the status quo, or else he would have accommodated himself to King Zedekiah. The small kingdom of Judah was prepared for war, there being no peace. Zedekiah had to walk the fine line of pleasing his courtiers and the king of Babylon, against whom he eventually rebelled and lost his kingdom. Fire on the earth, indeed, as Jerusalem was breached and conquered.

The second reading offers us the image of the “cloud of witnesses”, who are of course the saints who have gone before us. This myriad surrounding us encourage us to put off sin and persevere ourselves ion the good race. This cloud makes me remember the divine presence of God during the Exodus in the desert, encouraging the people to endure the journey. God appears to the people as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.

The fire in the belly of our cultural moment is our yearning for racial justice, our desire to welcome the immigrant, our work for just wages and the dignity of work, and the fire in our environmental catastrophe that we’ve ourselves have created.

Alan Hartway

Theological Studies at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago IL; Master of Fine Arts, Poetics, at Naropa University, Boulder CO 1996; Master of Arts, Greek Classics, University of Colorado, Boulder CO 2012; Taught at Naropa University from 1999 through 2015; Chair of Interdisciplinary Studies from 2007-2015; Member of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, Kansas City Province since 1974; Pastor at Guardian Angel Catholic Church, Mead, CO, ministry from 2007-2020 Currently Retired

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