Luke 12:49-53 NRSVue
49“I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and how I wish it were already ablaze! 50I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! 51Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! 52From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; 53they 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.”
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Some thoughts on this scripture
Jesus says "What stress I am under until it is completed"... a surprisingly modern sounding idiom in Jesus' mouth.
What profound contradictions prompted Jesus to speak of this "stress"? The truth that Jesus is evoked a terrible reaction.
What light do the contradictions faced by Jesus throw on the contradictions of our world and of my own life?
What stress I am under, says Jesus. It stems from his mission. He is sent by the Father to purify, and to distinguish what is genuine from dross. Life according to the beatitudes has its share of conflict. For those who hunger and thirst for justice, this world is not a comfortable place. As Simeon prophesied to Mary, Jesus was destined to be a sign that is rejected. What about me? Do I merge seamlessly and comfortably with the values of this world? Do I hunger and thirst for anything?
Jesus seems to know that his life will cause huge divisions, even in one of the most sacred communities of all - the family. He calls his mission 'a fire'. Fire can destroy and leave its marks forever. Yet it can strengthen with its huge energy. Our baptism is to enter with Jesus into the fire of love, commitment and conviction.
Jesus can bring division among people - those with him and against him. He can bring division also inside each of us. Prayer is a time to sift with him the different desires and actions of our lives. In prayer we ask the grace to 'know him more, love him more and serve him more faithfully in our lives'.