To Bring Fire on Earth


• The Gospel today gives us some phrases of Jesus. The first one on the fire on earth is only in Luke’s Gospel. The others have more or less parallel phrases in Matthew. This leads us to the problem of the origin of the composition of these two Gospels for which much ink has already been used throughout these two past centuries and this problem will only be solved fully when we will be able to speak with Matthew and Luke, after our resurrection.

• Luke 12, 49-50: Jesus has come to bring fire on earth. “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 what constraint I am under until it is completed!” The image of fire frequently is mentioned in the Bible and does not have only one meaning. It could be the image of devastation and of punishment, and it can also be the image of purification and illumination (Is 1, 25; Zc 13, 9). It can also express protection as it appears in Isaiah: “Should you pass through fire, you will not suffer” (Is 43, 2). John the Baptist baptized with water, but after him Jesus baptized with fire (Lk 3, 16). Here the image of fire is associated to the action of the Holy Spirit who descends every Pentecost on the image of the tongues of fire (Ac 2, 2-4). Images and symbols never have an obligatory sense, totally defined, which does not allow any divergence. In this case it would neither be image nor symbol. It is proper to the symbol to arouse the imagination of the auditors and spectators. Leaving freedom to the auditors, the image of fire combined with the image of baptism indicates the direction toward which Jesus wants people to turn their imagination. Baptism is associated with the water and it is always the expression of a commitment. In another point, Baptism appears like the symbol of the commitment of Jesus with his Passion: “Can you be baptized with the baptism with which I will be baptized?” (Mc 10, 38-39).

• Luke 12, 51-53: Jesus has come to bring division. Jesus always speaks of peace (Mt 5, 9; Mk 9, 50; Lk 1, 79; 10, 5; 19, 38; 24, 36; Jn 14, 27; 16, 33; 20, 21.26). And so how can we understand the phrase in today’s Gospel which seems to say the contrary: “Do you think that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you , but rather division”. This affirmation does not mean that Jesus himself is in favour of division. No! Jesus did not want division. But the announcement of truth that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah becomes a reason for much division among the Jews. In the same family or community, some were in favour and others were radically contrary. In this sense, the Good News of Jesus was really a source of division , a “sign of contradiction” (Lk 2, 34) or as Jesus said: “for from now on a household will be divided, father opposed to son, son to father, mother to daughter, daughter to mother, mother-in-law to daughter-in-law, daughter-in-law to mother-in-law”. That is what was happening, in fact in the families and in the communities: much division, much discussion, as a consequence of the Good News among the Jews of that time, some accepting, others denying. The same thing could be applied to the announcement of fraternity as a supreme value of human living together. Not all agreed with this announcement, because they preferred to maintain their privileges. And for this reason, they were not afraid to persecute those who announced sharing and fraternity. This was the division which arose and which and which was at the origin of the Passion and death of Jesus. This is what was happening. Jesus wants the union of all in truth (cf. Jn 17, 17-23). Even now it is like this. Many times there where the Church is renewed, the call of the Good News becomes a “sign of contradiction” and of division. Persons who during years had lived very comfortably in the routine of their Christian life, they do not want to be disturbed or bothered by the “innovations” of Vatican Council II. Disturbed by changes, they use all their intelligence to find arguments to defend their own opinions and to condemn the changes considering them contrary to what they think is their true faith.

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  • Laura K

    Trust Jesus. Trust in God. The church and families too, will be ok.