20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C.
“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!
Oh my, Jesus sounds so upset, doesn't he? You know when you are really worked up about something and you're trying to get your parents to get worked up about it, too--to care about what you care about--and they just sit there, drinking their coffee? I'm a grown woman, but I still have dreams about being upset because something is not fair and my mum just calmly goes about her business. I want her unruffled! I want her to get upset, too! I think this is how Jesus sounds: Look people, I'm serious about this Kingdom of God stuff! Are you listening?
He just finished telling them that the time to act is now. Be servants expecting their master to arrive at any time. I wonder if the people listening to Jesus were just politely interested and not getting on board. They were not changing their behaviour.
"I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!
Why does he want fire burning? Doesn't 🔥destroy? He comes to build the Kingdom, not to destroy??
We have to remember that 🔥does not only burn, it also purifies. Heating a substance will remove its impurities. What would Jesus want to remove from the people?
Also, putting a hard metal in 🔥 will make the metal become soft and allow a blacksmith to mold it into the shape he wants. If the people listening had hard hearts--if they were not getting passionate with him--I bet he wanted to put their hearts into 🔥so he could mold them into different hearts. Hearts that care, hearts that love, hearts that...what else would he want?
Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!
If Jesus gets all the people fired up, they won't be politely interested anymore, will they? They won't be bored and not care. They'll care alright! And when people are fired up, it isn't really peaceful. They won't always agree. And they'll make others react--sometimes not in a good way. But I think Jesus likes this better than people who don't care, who are not really interested at all.
Does this fit with what we know about Jesus?
In the parable of the Good Shepherd, after Jesus tells us that he calls his own sheep by name, that he knows them, and lays down his life for them, he also says,
"I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd." - John 10:16
One flock. One. All the sheep together with the shepherd. That doesn't sound like division. How does this fit with today's reading? Is Jesus bringing us together or breaking us apart???
I remember just the other day when we celebrated the Assumption of Mary, we heard Mary's song of praise. I noticed she says, God "has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts" (Luke 1:51b). Scattering and division. I usually think of God gathering and unifying (bringing together as one.)
I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!
What is this baptism Jesus is speaking about? It is his death and resurrection. Dying to the old life, and rising to the new God-filled life. Division and unification. Scattering and gathering. Listen to the stress in Jesus' voice. He wants this complete now, too. He wants what we want--everyone all together with God. He knows it won't be easy. But he wants us 🔥'd up with him. We can do this. We can work through the ÷ problems and build the Kingdom. Thank God he is with us throughout it all.