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Thursday, 04 August 2022 14:20

The Prophet's anguish

 Jesus said to the disciples: I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already! There is a baptism I must still receive, and how great is my distress till it is over!

Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on a household of five will be divided: three against two and two against three; the father divided against the son, son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, mother-in- law against daughter-in-law, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’ (Luke 12:49-53)

Reflection - The Prophet’s anguish

Sometimes we can be overwhelmed by life. Feelings of fear, uncertainty and anxiety bubble away beneath the surface. Sometimes, those feelings reach the surface in an explosion of words and actions.

In this Gospel passage we encounter the startling image of Jesus in distress and anguish over his mission and what he is yet to face. His statement that he, the Prince of Peace, has not come to bring peace, but division, is confronting.

Right at the beginning of this passage, Jesus says he has come to bring fire to the earth and wishes it were blazing already. The ‘fire’ Jesus talks about is the fire of the Holy Spirit; the fire that melts away all that is not of God. But the Holy Spirit won’t be given until after Jesus has faced and endured his destiny (passion and death) in Jerusalem. Perhaps we, who now live with the presence of the Spirit, need to ask, ‘What has yet to be melted away so that only the real presence of God remains in us, purified of greed, ambition, selfishness, and so on? We could also ask, ‘Where is the passion of God in my life?’

Jesus also speaks about a ‘baptism’ he must yet receive. It is not the sacrament of baptism he means. ‘Baptism’ was a biblical word used to describe turbulent and potentially overwhelming events which, like a roiling sea, threaten to engulf us. Again, it is a reference to his approaching suffering and death. Jesus is distressed and clearly wishes it was already over.

Following from last Sunday’s Gospel, the disciple is called not only to stand ready and stay faithful to his employment (call), but also to stand firm in the face of opposition. Peace is not to be won at any price (e.g. compromising God’s word).

Christians should never expect that discipleship makes life easy. Far from delivering us from the difficulties of life, our discipleship is more inclined to plunge us into the difficult and confronting issues which affect us and those around us. There will be division and discord an account of the Word that is preached and the values that we hold – sometimes even among those who are closest to us.

To share Jesus’ baptism is to share with him in his passion and resurrection. It carries significant responsibilities (remaining faithful to God’s word) and sometimes means that we are misunderstood or even punished for meeting those responsibilities.
To follow Jesus is to speak God’s word, in what we say and in our actions.

Download to read or print our Celebrating At Home prayers, reading and reflection for this Sunday:

pdf Celebrating At Home 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time [PDF] (3.07 MB)                       
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