Bible Readings for the 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time:
[Cyber-version of my homily for 18 August 2013]
I grew up in the time of the old 5 & 10 stores.  These were awesome places for a kid that lived up to their being known as Variety Stores.  From paint to school supplies, fabric and patterns for  mom’s sewing and, my favorites the goldfish and little green pet turtles and usually a lunch counter if you had a notion for a bite to eat.  These stores were  known for their “notions”.  People would go and especially look for those “notions” (sewing, craft, projects) that they needed or wanted. Notions are good, provided they don’t clutter or posses our lives, our souls.
Our Bible readings this 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time reminded me of how we cherish our notions, especially those of soul and spirit.  Our readings also challenge us to face the conflicts and divisions our notions can bring and the One who can lead us free to know and discover not the stuff of this world but the One who fills our greatest longings.
Jesus loves to challenge our notions.   Those things, concepts, the stuff of life, whether it be materialism, or stuff of soul and spirit that clutters our ability to…live… to see Christ in our daily lives.  
In the Gospel reading we share one of the more intense and troubling messages of Christ.  “ I come to ignite a fire on earth!” {Powerful words for a retired Fire fighter and investigator to hear].  I come, not to bring peace but divisions.  How does this reconcile with His repeated invitations to peace?  How does this fit with His prayers before His Passion that we be one as He and the Father are one?  It doesn’t conflict.  It actually challenges us to realize that in our notions (material or spiritual) we will not find peace.  When the fire of His Holy Love threatens our false possessions we often struggle and fight. Are we going to follow Him or cling to our stuff?
Notions were in many ways the core of the problem in the Old Testament story we heard of Jeremiah being cast into the cistern by his enemies.  As a prophet of God Jeremiah had challenged the deeply rooted notions of idolatry held by many of the people of Israel.  His message and life was upsetting the politics of power in the country.  Jeremiah found, in his faith, love, his obedience to God that he was literally cast down into the pit and left to die.   But God had not left him.  As the Psalm proclaimed He heard his call in the depths of conflict and raised him up out of the pit to serve and follow the Lord again.  
As Christ expresses in our Gospel we see in the story of Jeremiah.  When we, when those in our lives, find our treasured notions challenged division and conflict will occur.
For some it may be a literal hoarding of stuff that can in the most tragic sense fill rooms, houses, and hearts that crowd out the real treasures of our life.  Often people can become so secure in their insecurities that to let go of those treasured fears and hurts can only be done with the grace of God and loving help of family and friends.
But we also hoard and hide the notions of soul and spirit.  Our country, our Church, our families as well, are struggling with divisions and strife as people cling to their notions of being Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative.  The fear some have, in their spirituality, that worship or liturgy, or their “non-religious spirituality” must be precise and performed according to their understanding (either liberal or conservative, religious or spiritual, orthodox or we love the notions of our labels!) and preferences is cause for growing conflict in places God longs to be places of true worship and faith, in our hearts.  But the love of Christ can lift us from the bondages of our divisions.
The epistle this day reminds us of two very essential aspects of our Catholic faith.  In our Communion of the Saints we remember we are being cheered on, encouraged by our Heavenly companions.  The angels and saints, those who have lived through and conquered with Christ all the notions and stuff of this world help us to know the call of His love the fire and beauty of His holiness that we are called to share.  More precisely they help us to focus, not on the stuff, the notions we think are so important but to look to Jesus.  
With our eyes of faith touched by His nail pierced hands we can grow in our vision of seeing Him.  We can start to see Him more clearly in the Eucharist, yes.  But Jesus will not be confined there.  We can start to see Christ in the poor and afflicted, as our Pope Francis calls us to do.  We can learn to see Christ, in His Body, the Living Eucharist, the People of God. We ca start to see Christ in our family, friends…ourselves. And it is as we see Him our hearts will burn with the fire of His love.
Let us let go our cluttered notions and look to Jesus, in His Eucharistic Presence, Christ’s glory in Creation and His Presence in each other.