Reflection for the 20th Sunday Ordinary Time (Year C)
Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.
One bible story that fascinated me as a child was the story of Daniel in the lion’s den. Due to the conspiracy of some envious officials in the Kingdom of Babylon, Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den overnight to be devoured by the wild beasts because he prayed to God.
The narrative tells us that God sent his angels to shut the mouth of the lions in the den. In order words, God provided help over the malicious plots of the Kingdom’s officials because the case was due to Daniel’s allegiance to Him.
The First Reading (Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10) tells us a story like Daniel’s. The princes of the Kingdom made up false narratives and convinced King Zedekiah that the prophet Jeremiah deserved to die.
Without investigating the matter, and due to his allegiance to the princes, the King permitted them to do away with Jeremiah as requested. So, they took the prophet, suspended him with ropes, and threw him down a dry, muddy cistern.
Again, like in the case of Daniel, something contrary to the plans of the princes happened. The narrative tells us that Ebed-Melech, a court official approached the King to speak in favor of Jeremiah. He disputed the claims of the princes as false. And in swift response and realizing that Jeremiah was in imminent danger of death, the King ordered Ebed-melech the Cushite to take three men to rescue Jeremiah.
Troubles Are Real
Life is not always easy and trouble-free. Sometimes we face the destructive accusations of some malicious princes who plot to destroy us because we stand on the side of the truth.
The truth is often discomforting to the wicked. For example, in the Gospel Reading (Luke 12:49-53), Jesus says, among other things: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing” On the surface, the statement sounds unlike our Lord Jesus Christ “the prince of peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
On a closer examination, our Lord Jesus Christ, by the statement above, is stating a transgenerational fact because the truth of the Gospel will bring trouble, that is, division between those who will accept it and those who will damn it.
Divine Help in Times of Trouble
A critical look at the narrative of Jeremiah’s ordeal would likely raise questions about the double action of King Zedekiah: permitting the evil plot against Jeremiah and stopping the same evil plot. So, what changed between when Jeremiah was thrown into the cistern and when Ebed-melech showed up? The answer is simple, divine help.
The action of Ebed-melech was at the instance of divine help. Notice that he did not show up when the princes requested to have Jeremiah killed. They had concluded and executed the malicious plot before he approached the King.
Here we have a typical instance of divine intervention for help coming at the right time. God is never too late or limited; He is the author of times and seasons; therefore, He is beyond times and seasons. He will help you!
Moving Forward: Your Help Shall Come!
God will not abandon those who call upon him in their troubles with faith and trust. In the Responsorial Psalm (40), King David gives us a glimpse of his ordeal. The situation seemed hopeless, but as he waited on the Lord, he received help. He says, among others, “The Lord heard my cry. He drew me out of the pit of destruction, out of the mud of the swamp; he set my feet upon a crag; he made firm my steps”.
You might be facing a similar situation in your life. So often, we find ourselves in the pit of destruction orchestrated by forces opposed to where we stand with the truth. One common character that connects Jeremiah and David in the First Reading and the Responsorial Psalm is the ability to wait on God until His help comes. Recall that He is never late.
While God is willing and ready to help us, there may be some hindrances. The Second Reading (Hebrews 12:1-4) tells us that though so great a cloud of witnesses surrounds us, we should rid ourselves of every burden and sin that cling to us as we persevere in running the race with our eyes fixed on our Lord Jesus.
May God grant us the grace to be willing to stand on the side of the truth no matter who is involved on the opposing side, with the conviction that divine help will come on our way no matter what comes our way!
God bless you.