Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
“I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” (Luke 12:49) These words of Jesus can strike us as pretty radical, not exactly what we would expect from the same man who calls himself the Good Shepherd. And then he hits us with these words: “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” (Luke 12:51)Setting fires and causing division? What the heck is he talking about?
Let’s look for a moment at the Rite of Baptism for children and the words spoken by the priest or deacon as the baptismal candle is presented, freshly lit from the Paschal (Easter) candle: Receive the light of Christ. Parents and godparents, this light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly. These children of yours have been enlightened by Christ. They are to walk always as children of the light. May they keep the flame of faith alive in their hearts.
And recall the words of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus whose encounter with Jesus the stranger slowly opened their hearts to move from grief at Jesus’ death to joy in His Resurrection: “Were not our hearts,” they said to one another, “burning within us while He talked to us on the way and explained the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32)
Jesus wants to light the flame of the Spirit that may be dormant from self-satisfaction with our lukewarm lives as they are, and not as they could be if we connected more deeply with the passionate fire of love and mercy that Jesus is always longing to kindle and ignite within us.
As far as stoking division, Jesus knows that not everyone will embrace His Word and welcome His life-giving, life-altering Love. He is very upfront that division will happen and sometimes that division is necessary in order for us to deepen our commitment to God enough so that others might then be attracted to what we feel, what we experience, to the more humble and generous people we have become due to this love affair between us and God.
Jesus knew that we are often divided within ourselves, caught between the temptations of the world and the deep desire to fully embrace and follow the very Author of our lives. He longs for our hearts to burn with love for God and longs for us to spread the flame of the love that we experience from God, that others might know the joy and freedom found when they have truly sought out and peered into the very heart of God… and in it seen the reflection of their truest selves shining, burning brightly.
Gentle peace! Fr. Larry