The Gospel of the Day – 2016.08.14
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already! There is a baptism I must still receive, and how great is my distress till it is over!
‘Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on a household of five will be divided: three against two and two against three; the father divided against the son, son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’
Purification by Fire
This is a cryptic passage. It is fraught with tension. it engenders worry in the reader. There is fire.
In scripture fire is not a symbol of destruction of destruction, punishment, or judgement that leads to damnation. This is true, even of those few passages that are commonly interpreted as such, such as the lake of fire in the Book of Revelation.
Fire is a symbol referring to our encounter with God. With the person of God; God, who is the creator of the universe.
Fire is a vehicle of refinement, of transformation, of purification. In this passage the blazing fire that Jesus wishes would engulf the world; that fire is the fire of baptism, it is the grace of the Holy Spirit, a baptism which he sees coming to him, and through his teaching to the rest of the entire world (or so he hoped).
Jesus’ death, his trials, his suffering did not transform the world. It did light the way. Many were called to follow the way, many are called in every generation. The more radical our response is to that call, the more clearly we are divided from our old way of life. Conflict often ensues, between a person and their loved ones, when one member of a community hears the call of the Spirit and move toward, while others are remain caught up in the distractions of the world. We are witnessing something of this today in regards to Pope, Saint Francis, “The Good,” Pope Francis is moving the church forward as the Spirit wills, and he is meeting strong resistance from the conservative powers within it.
Anytime the demands of truth and righteousness put us at odds with our conventions, mores and customs we face this opposition. Perseverance in the face of that opposition is what Jesus is speaking to when he speaks of the consuming power of the holy flame.
20th Sunday in Ordinary Time