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.” ( Luke 12:49-53)
Fire in biblical times was associated with God and with his action in the world and in the lives of his people. Today’s Gospel reminds us that Jesus came to set our hearts on fire, burning brightly with His love and motivating us to not only step out in faith but to step up to what our faith is about.
The problem is that often we draw near to God with asbestos around our hearts. We don’t draw near with the love we should. We can say our prayers, but rush through them without love. We go to Church and time the preacher’s sermon. We want our Christianity “light” please. Oh, and not a lot of rules either because we value our freedom.
Isn’t that the world most of us live in? We live in a world which does not want to feel guilty for embracing a life of uninterrupted pleasures. We want our meat drowned in gravy but minus the fat. We want our drinks laced with sugar but minus the calories. We want low fat, less sugar, in short, a comforting Jesus minus the demands.
We want our Christianity to always be about Christmas. . . charming portrayals of a baby in a manger, animals standing meekly nearby, a remarkably well-recovered new mother looking on lovingly at her new-born child, shepherds gazing in wonder, wise men laying down their gifts, and a clear sky above with one star brighter than all others.
I like these images too. But they distract, and we forget that the one in that manger is God’s Messiah by whom the world will be judged, the one who will hang in bloody agony on a cross for our sins until dead.
The Gospel today reminds us that Jesus is challenging us to choose him and when we do, there is a cost to be borne. When we choose Jesus, Calvary is our home. But, when we shade Jesus grey, we will find excuses to stand in the shadow. When Jesus is watered down, then our task is to ensure that Jesus does not intrude into our lives. He can be there but he must not disturb our comfort. We want a Jesus to tell us that He loves us but we don’t want a Jesus to remind us that it is our sins that keep us away from his love.
Jesus’ message was hard but honest. No one who hears and considers His words could ever feel misled about the cost of discipleship. But also, no one who hears and considers his words could ever doubt that there is no other choice to make than surrendering to Him as Lord, no other life worth living than giving every day and every breath to him, no other destiny worth pursuing than eternity in his presence. His way is the only way.
If we are to choose the less travelled road of moral integrity otherwise known as the less travelled path of suffering then only Jesus can be our rock, our salvation. Nothing less is good enough to be a shield and an armor in the winds that blow against us. Choosing Jesus, means that we need to be prepared for stronger winds that blow, and to steel ourselves because the temptations will become more acute. But, as the author to the Hebrews says, let us persevere and keep running steadily in the race we have started. It is Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings us to the joy of eternal life.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord, may your love consume me and transform my life that I may truly desire nothing more than life with you. Make me strong in love and fidelity that nothing may hinder me from doing your will.”
The problem today is we will do nearly anything to avoid a confrontation or argument. ‘Play nice’, we are told, like small children, compromise, negotiate and keep the peace at any cost sacrificing even the Gospel. We become so accustomed to evil it hardly moves us. Is religious liberty more important, for example, than religion, a right relationship with our government rather than a right relationship with God? Jesus, however, directly confronted the powerful, questioning, challenging or condemning evil. No gospel writer knew this better the John who ten lines into his gospel acknowledged that Jesus, “was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not. He came to his own home, and his own people received him not . . . .” And then incredibly we read, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1, 10-14). (You think the Gospel writer was not including our time?)