Mission Society of the Philippines


20th Sunday C

Lk 12:49-53



THIS GOSPEL PASSAGE is one of the confusing passages in the Scripture. We know of Jesus as the bringer of peace for, as Isaiah prophesied, he is the “Prince of Peace”. But in the gospel, we heard about the contrary. Jesus says that he is a cause of division, instead of being the bringer of peace.

Let us try to go over the gospel passage and try to understand the words of Jesus.

First, Jesus says, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” The image of fire helps us to understand our Christian responsibility. Fire has a number of characteristics: it warms, purifies, refines, transforms, and burns.  As a purifying force, fire burns up what is useless and refines what is impure, besides giving warmth and energy. The hope of Jesus was that this fire would be “already blazing”. There are many areas on which this fire should blaze. An example for this is the Scripture. Our heart should be burning as soon as we hear the Word of God. We must be “fired up” by the Word of God. Another example or area is faith. Our faith must remain living and alive. We should remain steadfast in our faith.

Secondly, Jesus says, “There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!” Baptism, as well as the Cup, is a metaphor for the suffering and death of Jesus. And our own baptism is a participation in the death and rising of Jesus. We can connect the theme of fire with baptism. When we were baptized, we received our faith, as well as the light of Christ. It is hoped that this light will continue burning while we grow older or mature. While some people may have abandoned their faith in Christ, we, the faithful believers should continue to spread the light (who is Christ) that we received when we were baptized.

Thirdly, Jesus says, “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” Some biblical scholars comment that what Jesus tells us here is not about the purpose of his coming, but rather about the consequence of his coming. Yes, nevertheless, he brings the message of peace to us. But the consequence is one of division. Why division? The message of Jesus demands radical acceptance. If we are for him, then, we have to leave the other “gods” for his sake. There are people who cling to their old sinful ways, but there are also people who warmly accept Jesus. Thus, there comes the division. This can happen in our family. There are family members who cannot accept the message of Jesus, and they tend to compromise it. But there are also members who remain sincere in their following to Christ.

We, Christians, are exposed into two kinds of worlds: the earthly and the heavenly, the present and the future. There is an earthly kingdom, and a heavenly kingdom. The values of this world are contrary to the values of the kingdom of God. Consequently, this brings conflict and division within us. However, the key to a peaceful life is our focus and adherence to the values of the kingdom. We must not allow ourselves to be carried away by the values and allurements of this passing world for they are just trivial. But rather we should stay focused on our future with God.

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