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Luke 12:49-53

The Word of God

Jesus said to the crowds, "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! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."

Luke 12:49-53
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    • Jesus is passionate about his mission. He not only knows what it is and the suffering it entails, but he embraces it enthusiastically. My own mission as a Christian somehow partakes of Jesus’ mission, bringing fire on earth. I ask for the grace to have more clarity about what God is calling me to do, and to do it with Jesus, with passion and energy.
    • Jesus shed his blood to reconcile us with God and among ourselves. Yet the radicality of his message leads inevitably to division, between those who accept it and those who resist it. Often these divisions run across families. I pray that I may know how to bear the division that being faithful to Jesus and his message can bring to my life. I pray for my family and friends that Jesus can be for us the source of unity rather than division.
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    • The anguish of Jesus, as he approaches the time of his testing and trial, is evident. He so longs for this time to be over, and his mission completed.
    • Jesus has seen enough now to know that this mission will not be a straightforward one; he has preached the good news, but many people have rejected his message. It is not like Jonah, converting the Ninevites. Here the Christian message is 'not peace, but a sword' causing rancour instead of harmony. Has this ever been my own experience?
    • Take a little time to be with Jesus in this moment of anguish and dismay. He is facing up to the failure of his mission. Probably he does not know yet precisely how God will turn this failure into triumph, but he knows that there is pain and anguish to come. Stay with him, during this dark moment.
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    • Jesus cannot wait for the final reality of his mission to come alive – the fire of justice and right living. He is under stress in awaiting his own suffering and crucifixion. And though his message is peace, it is such a hard won peace that it is more like division because he is fighting off the corruption of the world. He knows that the radical purity of his message will cause people to waiver and doubt and oppose his message. He is like the prophet Micah, whom Luke quotes here, who, while seeing the divisions in families, puts his trust in God alone (Micah 7:6).
    • The Gospel is a call to conversion, to becoming ‘a new creation’ (2 Corinthians 5:17). It means shedding the skin of a former way of living. Does my Christian faith make a real difference to the kind of person I am and to the kind of life I lead?
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    • So often Christians look like a discouraged group, with little passion in their lives for what they believe in. Yet we have chosen to follow someone who came to bring fire on earth, and who is passionate about kindling it.
    • Living my faith passionately will certainly involve me in conflict, even at the deepest levels of my life and relationships. I ask for freedom and wisdom to be able to deal well with such conflicts.
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    • Ponder a moment on the image of ‘fire’. Jesus uses it in a negative way; it’s not about cooking or warmth. It’s about danger, panic, destruction; lighting a fire under somebody, apparently under a family
    • Jesus often uses shocking overstatements to convey a truth. Could this be such an example?
    • Does a choice to follow Jesus always involve danger, panic, destruction? Or is it more the case that sometimes there is some element of these?
    • Maybe you feel different about this.
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    • Jesus is totally involved in his mission to save us. Fire is the image he uses to speak of this great desire in his heart. Not everyone would receive his message and hence it would bring division at a deep level in many relationships.
    • How important to me is the good news that Jesus has brought? It helps me to realise how much I must mean to him when I consider what it cost him.
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    • Gentle Jesus, meek and mild? Conformity and harmony are never to be imposed or sought for themselves. They are not a mould into which life is to be forced. When life is properly arranged, they will be the result.
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    • Shalom, the Hebrew word for peace, has a rich spectrum of meaning to it. It focuses on integrity, well-being, harmony and unity. When we wish people shalom we ask for them a whole way of living at peace with God and with themselves.
    • How am I living my faith today? Does it challenge others? For Jesus, here it means being ‘under stress’. And his first disciples were called ‘disturbers of the peace’ (Acts 16:20). But there is also unhelpful stress that comes from anxiety. Let me then pray with Saint Teresa of Avila: Let nothing disturb you, Let nothing frighten you, All things are passing away: God never changes. Patience obtains all things Whoever has God lacks nothing; God alone suffices.
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    • Here Jesus is anxious to see the fire of God’s love blaze across the globe. John the Baptist had promised that Jesus would baptise his disciples with the Holy Spirit and fire. The fire of God’s love was in fact visibly cast upon the earth at Pentecost, and we thank God for it.
    • Lord that we might experience the fire of your love in our hearts today. Saint Ignatius was ‘ablaze with God’ and we wish that for ourselves too. Only so will we be your true disciples..
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    • There is an echo here of John the Baptist’s reference to the difference between his own baptism and that of Jesus: ‘I baptize you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire’ (Luke 3:16). Fire has a purifying quality: it separates what is of value from what is worthless. The baptism of Jesus requires us to die to sin and selfishness in order to live more fully for God and others.
    • Jesus does not set out to cause conflict, but so radical is his message that it inevitably does cause division in certain situations and relationships. The Gospel is a call to conversion, to becoming ‘a new creation’ (2 Corinthians 5:17). It means shedding the skin of a former way of living. Does my Christian faith make a real difference to the kind of person I am and to the kind of life I lead?
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    • Living out your life as a companion of Jesus is anything but dull! Christians are meant to be ‘on fire’ with God’s love, and be moved by the Holy Spirit. I ask God to show me where my life has become bland and to free me to become fully alive.
    • Jesus does not try to cause divisions, but he does insist that we must put God first. In him the new age of God has dawned, and I ask to be part of it. I want to live a fruitful life that will be a blessing to everyone, especially the oppressed and excluded.
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    • Lord, you disturb me, shake me out of complacency and make my heart burn within me. Your message is not just about being nice. It means being angry at times, confronting injustice, making a stand. You sensed already what a price you would pay for your teaching, and how bitter would be your baptism, submerging you in your Passion.