Fire and Division (Luke 12: 49-53)

Thursday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time.

Today’s Gospel reading is from Luke 12: 49-53 …

49 “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished! 51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division; 52 for henceforth in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three;53 they will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against her mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

 At first glance, these are difficult words from Jesus. Without any context or background knowledge of Jesus’ other words, and a fundamental and literal understanding, these words are challenging to grasp. Whaaaa?! Jesus is going to set the world on fire like a hellish blaze and he wishes it was already on fire?! AND He doesn’t come to give peace but cause division?!

Sheesh! Difficult words indeed, and if I heard all that (or read all that) without knowing much about Jesus, then yes, I might just pull a John 6: 60 …

60 Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”

to which He replies with a John 6: 61 …

61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at it, said to them, “Do you take offense at this?

Yes, Jesus. I do. I won’t run away like the disciples (John 6: 66), but this is uncomfortable.

Because I’m not really comfortable with the idea that You want to set fire on this earth and wish it was already burning.

Because I’m not really comfortable with the idea that You wish to divide my family.

But what do You mean? How am I to understand this?

I started attempting at reading Daily Readings again the other day (which by the way, conveniently, the Catholic Church has a set 3-year cycle of Scripture readings for the entirety of the Church to divulge and learn), and this particular one stood out to me so much that I figured I should blog about it.

Fire. I’m not totally well versed in verses, but whenever I think of fire in Scripture, I think of God’s presence and purification or refinement. Like, Moses and the burning bush. And that one praise and worship song, Refiner’s Fire.

So maybe when Jesus says He wishes to “cast down fire”, He wants to make known His presence like He did with Moses. But this time seems to imply something more dramatic. I mean, how dramatic would that be for the Lord to make known His presence with the casting down of fire? An all-consuming type of fire just to really make the point that He is, indeed, present? Scary thought.

Sometimes the earth is called the “Blue Marble” and because sin entered the world, this “Blue Marble” is not as shiny anymore, if I were to think of it as an actual ceramic marble. Perhaps, because of sin, it is caked on with dirt and grime. But Jesus’ fire purifies it. Removes the dirt. Analogies are never adequate but I hope you follow it anyway.

Either way, Jesus seems to mean serious business when talking about fire. His presence. His purification love. Real stuff. Serious business.

Which leads to…this part about division.

I love my family, and I don’t want to be divided from them, and it doesn’t initially make sense why Jesus seemingly desires that He will be the cause of division for us. But the thing about Jesus is that He desires our hearts. Our souls. Does my heart burn for Him? If He makes Himself known (like, with fire) in order to save us from our sins, I only have two responses: 1) Follow Him or B) Turn away from Him.

I think that is what will cause division–the split between those who follow Him and those who do not.

Earlier this evening I got to listen to my pastor give his vocation story (and brief catechesis on the priesthood). He’s an Episcopalian priest convert to the Catholic faith. The main driving factor of his conversion was realizing that in the Episcopal tradition, they do not have the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. He realized, over time as his heart burned for Jesus present in the Eucharist, that he will follow Jesus in the Catholic faith because of the Eucharist since Jesus is truly present (fun fact: a red candle is lit near any Catholic tabernacle to let the faithful know that Jesus is present) which fire makes me think of God’s presence) see above))).  When he made the decision to convert to the Catholic faith, this caused some division in his family of the Episcopal congregation that he was part of for 4 years. Granted, many were supportive, some even wanted to make the jump with him, but still others weren’t too keen on the idea.

And then please pray for one of my friends. She’s seriously thinking about joining a religious order because her love for Christ burns so much so that she is willing to drop everything and follow Him. I have a limited understanding of her situation, but I know, for whatever reason, things have gotten complicated with her family. A sort of division.

Not everyone is prepared for Jesus’ presence and purifying love. This will cause division. But! What are things that I can do to help others and prepare them to come to a better understanding of Jesus so that we are not divided on the Last Day and for all eternity, but rather unified in the Mystical Body of Christ sharing in the beatific vision of God in heaven?

“If you are who God created you to be, you will set the world ablaze.” – St. Catherine of Siena

En fuego.
– JD

PS Pardon my lack of coherent think-blogging…I need to gain more experience points on reflect-blogging on Mass readings

Fire // Thomas’s Pics, Flickr