August 18, 2019: Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading: 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.”
What is the fire that Jesus wishes were already kindled? Fire is a profound biblical symbol that represents judgment as well as transformation. Fire transforms whatever it touches and if Jesus’ radical, counter-cultural message is to be fully embraced, hearts must be transformed. Without the transformation of our hearts, conflict and divisions will continue at deep levels in our relationships and social structures.
Jesus’ words are meant to shake us out of our complacency and encourage us to let go of our preconceived notions of the way things must be. Complacency brings inaction and the either/or thinking that continues to exclude, marginalize and distance us from each other.
Today, Jesus’ words hit close to home. We still live in a world that is immersed in divisions. Divisions that continue to cut through families, friendships, communities, churches and nations. And all too often these divisions result in violence and death.
If we are to truly live out Jesus’ radical message and work together to reconcile our divisions and conflicts, we must be open to the prompting of the Spirit in our lives and let the fire of continued transformation do its work on our hearts.
Find some quiet time when you can light a candle and gaze at the flame. Watch the flame dance as it reacts to the movement of air and think about the transforming power of fire. Put your hand close to the flame and feel its warmth. Imagine its warmth filling your heart. Then slowly pray or sing the prayer of St. Francis.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
where there is hatred let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For, it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.