"I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?"
Two women chat on the phone. One brags about her children’s many achievements. The other quietly watches, as she speaks, her mentally challenged child struggling to open the gate. She lets him fumble on, yet chides herself for not rushing to help. Eventually he learns – a major triumph for the boy. Gain after much pain. The woman cries with pride and relief. All growth is painful.
Jesus came to bring change. His powerful image is of bringing “fire to the earth” (Focus). Burning the dross of sinfulness, purifying the gold of holiness is terribly painful. Today’s Gospel can make us squirm. Jesus demands, “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!” (Lk 12:51). Has he come to promote war, violence? Certainly not, we know, since he always underscores love and service. But neither has he come to encourage stagnation or self-satisfaction with our petty egoistic pursuits.
The war that Jesus has unleashed is a fight against our base nature and for the kingdom of God. Such a struggle is indeed immensely difficult, since it has not only an individual dimension, but often a community or a social one (Lk 12:52-53). But it is a fire that purifies us.
Fruit: Every time we find our institutions and attitudes too comfortable, we would do well to ask, “What does the fire of Jesus need to purify in our world?”