Are we setting the world on fire?

This weekend’s Gospel [Luke 12:49-53] is one that has brought questions to me since my years in seminary-college.

Do you think I have come to establish peace on 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 …..

Jesus came to cause division?  Not possible!  Jesus came to reconcile, to establish a new kingdom, to create peace!  Right?

I remember asking a professor to address this Scripture.  His response —- Jesus did not really come to cause division —- he just knew ahead of time that his presence would cause division.  Some would accept his challenge, others would not.  Even within families, there would be those who “sided with Jesus” and those who could not “accept” his teaching.  This sounded plausible, but —- still, the Bible says,  he came to cause division.  How is this possible?

Today, I see and believe ever more — Jesus came to light a fire under those who would follow him —- he came to make a difference — he was not satisfied with the way things were.  Being average or mediocre was not going to be good enough.  Being content with the status quo was not the spirit Jesus was wanting to see in his disciples.

In addressing the youth at the recent WORLD YOUTH DAY in Brazil, Pope Francis challenged the young people to return to their dioceses and to “shake things up.”  He told bishops, to get out of their offices and to be among the people.

So, how might we think of Jesus shaking things up?  Here are a few examples that come to me:

>  Instead of an eye for an eye —  you are to turn the other cheek.

> Instead of praying for — helping — those who help you, you are to pray for everyone, even your enemies …. God’s rain falls on the good and the bad.

> Jesus sat with the woman at the well — a Samaritan WOMAN … who was known to have been married many times.

> Jesus ate with sinners — with prostitutes ….

> Jesus taught that there was no limit to how many times we are to forgive another — and went so far as to teach that we will be forgiven in the same way that we forgive others!!!

Yes!!  Jesus did come to cause division — to divide an old way of thinking from a new way of being!  Today, we see historical evidence of his division — time is now marked as being “before Christ” and “after the Lord” …. it is as if the world stopped just for a moment ….. and  a new history began …… our world’s clock is divided into a pre-Christian era and an “after Christ” time.  Somehow, I think Jesus wants more than that.

As a follower of Jesus — as the CHURCH of Jesus — are we still “wishing that the earth were ablaze?”  Are we lighting a fire …. or extinguishing the flame?  Are we a people “on fire” for the things of Jesus.

What can youth do to shake up a diocese?  What can we do to fire-up the faithful?  How can we —– like a fire —– clear the ground for new life?

We tend to focus on the destructive nature of fire …. destruction of a home and loss of life.  But fire is needed for cooking and for warmth.  Farmers will burn a field to clear it before planting again.  Fire is fought with fire — in fire breaks.

To do so …. we must first believe that what is, what we see today —- is not the way everything is intended to be.  In faith, we believe that God is wanting something more, something better for the world.  And we believe, that we are part of making things be different and be better.  We are called to set the blaze.

Secondly, we are passionate about what we believe and enthusiastic about what we believe.  We are not timid, we are not afraid.

Third, we do not settle easily.  We know that at times we have to be patient, and we have to go slowly, but we will not surrender.  We are convinced of what we are doing and we will not give up.

Fourth, we are never complacent and comfortable —- too many people are in need, so many people are troubled ….we do not waste time worrying about ourselves or what we have ….we go after the more so that others can have more.  We are not shut off from the issues of the world.

Fifth, if we want to start a fire — we have to speak truth to power …. those in power often — most of the time ??!! — act to keep their power.  Jesus challenged the religious authorities.  He called out the Pharisees who made life difficult for others and never lifted a finger to help them —- HE KNEW, THINGS COULD NOT STAY THIS WAY!

Jesus resisted power to the point that he shed blood.

We know that this side of heaven, there will always be more to do.  But, becoming content and ok with what is … not for an ON FIRE CHRISTIAN.

For the past three years, I have been part of the Charter School movement in our community.  Challenging the traditional system of public education has not been easy — trying to shake up a failing system is not as obvious as it would seem.  There are detractors out there — there are “haters” out there.  Still, believing “what is” is as good as it can be, is hard to take.

Jesus reminded us what he would do with the “lukewarm” — he would vomit them out of his mouth!

Those who felt uncomfortable with the preaching of Jeremiah tried to get rid of him. [Jeremiah 38:4-10]  Before it was too late, those who tried to bury him — realized they would starve themselves by not listening — and they pulled him from death to life.

Do you feel the heat?


About thegospelforliving

Retired Catholic Priest - now serving the community as a paralegal and charter school consultant.
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