20th Sun C
The Commentaries Summarised
As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.
This Sunday's Commentary
This text follows immediately on the text of last Sunday’s Gospel where Jesus had exhorted the disciples to be alert, like slaves waiting on their Master’s return. Now Jesus breaks out into a forceful exclamation regarding his ‘passion’. Indeed, in the language he uses desiring his passion, he shows the very alert, eager attitude he had been recommending to his disciples. The term ‘passion’ can be variously interpreted. While we readily apply it to Jesus’ forthcoming suffering and death, his Jewish readers would also understand it to apply to the Judgement of God, where the true nature of all people will be revealed, where evil will be punished, good rewarded and God would become all in all. Both interpretations probably hold here. The term ‘baptism’ is used twice – as a verb and as a noun, stressing the forcefulness of the coming time of passion and transformation.
The radical nature of this ‘passion’ is shown in the effect it has on that most basic of units of Jewish society: the family. Commitment to Jesus and to Gospel values will cause division within the very heart of society. As his followers commit to him, other family members will be distressed and division will occur. Note in the examples there are three sets; father/son; mother/daughter; mother-in-law/daughter-in-law. These align with the differing relations that a man or woman would know in their lifetime. A son would always live in relationship with his father, while a woman would live first with her mother and then in the household of her mother-in-law.
This Gospel text is one of those difficult texts which we struggle to understand. We readily assume that good family values are an integral part of our Christian faith yet here we have Jesus quite sanguine about the disruption that commitment to him can cause. Indeed, in the Roman Empire, one of the objections to Christianity was its very power to undermine the family.