A reading from the gospel of Luke 12:49-53
Jesus said to his disciples:
49 “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!
50 There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!
51 Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.
52 From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three;
53 a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”
Pointers for Reflection
1. Fire as used by Luke refers to judgment or purification. Imagine a metal being purified by fire to remove impurities. One of the reasons why Jesus came to earth is to bring judgment on the people and to purify the earth. The previous reading speaks of death or His second coming and those who are ready will rejoice but those who are not will receive punishment. Jesus wishes the fire to start burning because He knew how enormous the pain is. As anyone who is in great pain would wish that the pain would go away as soon as possible.
2. Baptism means immersion. As used in this reading, it means to be immersed in great suffering. Because of our many sins, harsh judgment is upon us. However, God’s love is great so he sent His only Son to bear the judgment for us. As a consequence, the life of Jesus is pointed to Calvary. Every day, as he preached the kingdom of God, cured the sick, fed the hungry and cast out demons, he walked towards his arrest in Jerusalem and eventually to be crucified in Calvary. Every moment of His existence, he bore the anguish that would culminate in the cross.
3. Jesus came to give us new life but new life has an undesirable effect – division. In many instances for example, one member of the family becomes a follower of Jesus which is opposed by the other members. Even the husband might not agree with his wife serving for long hours in the church. A community may be divided with the building of a chapel in their area. The greatest division will be in the area of friendship especially if your old friends do not share the values of the gospel. New life entails one to focus on Jesus, not on people.
In Luke 14:26, Jesus said “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters — yes, even their own life — such a person cannot be my disciple”. There is indeed a cost in following Jesus. The cost is not cheap but the gain is eternal life.