Thursday, October 23 ~ Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Saint John of Capistrano, Priest
Holy Gospel: Luke 12:49-53
Jesus said to his disciples: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; 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.”
Do you want to be on fire for God? Jesus shocked his disciples when he declared that he would cast fire and cause division rather than peace upon the earth. What kind of fire did Jesus have in mind here? Fire in biblical times was associated with God and with his action in the world and in the lives of his people. God sometimes manifested his presence by use of fire, such as the burning bush which was not consumed when God spoke to Moses (Exodus 3:2). The image of fire was also used to symbolize God’s glory (Ezekiel 1:4, 13), his protective presence (2 Kings 6:17), his holiness (Deut. 4:24), righteous judgment (Zechariah 13:9), and his wrath against sin (Isaiah 66:15-16). It is also used of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 3:11 and Acts 2:3). God’s fire both purifies and cleanses, and it inspires a reverent fear of God and of his word in us. Jesus’ sharp statement that he would cause division rather than peace within families must have shocked his disciples. Was he exaggerating? Jesus used a typical Hebrew (Semetic) hyperbole to drive home an important lesson. We often do the same when we want to emphasize something very strongly. Jesus’ hyperbole, however, did contain a real warning that the gospel message does have consequences for our lives. It has the power to heal, restore, and unite those who believe its message. But the consequence of ignoring or rejecting the gospel can lead to many hurtful desires and seduction by the world – especially the latest societal trends, what is popular, teachings of false prophets, and giving adherence to man-made civil laws prominence over following God’s laws (e.g. supporting legalized abortion under the antiseptic spin language of “choice” and “freedom” versus God’s simple and straightforward commandment of “Thou shalt not kill”). Do we really think we have the ability to trump God’s laws by simply enacting civil laws or rendering judicial verdicts? Our human Supreme Court cannot invalidate or supersede God the Supreme being. Folks, let get back to loving God as his children, and loving Christ as our Savior and Redeemer, humbling ourselves to follow their way. Let’s admit our all too human mistakes in life, reconcile ourselves with God, and come back to the fold of Christ as his sheep whom he loves and shepherds on the one path that leads to eternal life.
O God, who raised up Saint John of Capistrano to comfort your faithful people in tribulation, place us, we pray, under your safe protection and keep your Church in everlasting peace. Almighty ever-living God, grant that we may always conform our will to yours and serve your majesty in sincerity of heart. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
When Jesus spoke about division he likely had in mind the prophecy of Micah: “a man’s enemies are the men of his own household” (Micah 7:6). The essence of Christianity is loyalty to Jesus Christ – a loyalty and faithfulness that takes precedence over every other relationship. The love of God compels us to choose who will be first in our lives. To place any relationship (or anything else) above God is a form of idolatry. Jesus challenges his disciples to examine who they love first and foremost. A true disciple loves God above all else and is willing to forsake all for Jesus Christ. Jesus insists that his disciples give him the loyalty which is only due to God, a loyalty which is higher than spouse or kin. It is possible that family and friends can become our enemies, if the thought of them keeps us from doing what we know God wants us to do. Does the love of Jesus Christ compel you to put God first in all you do (2 Corinthians 5:14)? Remember, Jesus invites us to follow him – let’s take him up on this profound invitation, and in doing so live lives of discipleship of love of God, and love of neighbor.