Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

There are some differences between J.R.R. Tolkien’s book, The Return of the King, and the Peter Jackson movie screenplay. One of the major differences is the ending of the story. In the book, after a series of goodbyes, the Hobbits finally return home to the Shire.  They find the Shire in ruins and the inhabitants are oppressed by the “Chief” who is in reality controlled by a shadowy figure called “Sharkey”. Sharkey has taken control of the Shire using corrupt Men, and begins cutting trees in the name of industrialization. Frodo and his companion, then, lead an uprising of Hobbits and are victorious at the Battle of Bywater which effectively frees the Shire.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus states: “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” Jesus also shocks us by saying that he “has come to set the earth on fire, and how he wishes it were already blazing.” If we attentively read and reflect on these statements, we would recognize that many people would expect that there will be a restoration of the lost “paradise” on earth. But Jesus reminded us that He did not plan to restore “paradise” on earth. Like the Hobbits, we must all face ongoing struggle in our lives. Nonetheless, the recovery of what man had lost through the expulsion from Paradise was expected from faith in Jesus Christ.

Today is also the feast of St. Maximillian Kolbe, a Polish Conventual Franciscan friar and a martyr in the German death Camp of Auschwitz during World War II. After the Nazi invasion, Kolbe was arrested by the German Gestapo and later he was transferred to Auschwitz.  Toward the end of his second month in Auschwitz, men were chosen to face death by starvation so as to prevent escapes. Kolbe was not chosen but volunteered to take the place of a man with a family. Kolbe’s story is a resemblance of the first reading from Jeremiah, in which a court official speaks truth when he tells King Zedekiah of the way the men have mistreated Jeremiah.  Ebed-melech advocated Jeremiah to be removed from the cistern before he die. Similarly, Kolbe served as an advocate for Franciszek Gajowniczek, the prisoner who was selected to be starved to death. Kolbe had the courage to step in because he had faith in eternal life, the true paradise, which Jesus promises in all its fullness and in abundance.

August 14th, 2016