To set the earth on fire


Reflections today

Jesus’ mission has twofold effects: like fire, it purifies and ignites to action. Scripture uses several images of fire: as a symbol of God’s holy presence, as in the burning bush (Ex 3:1-17); as God’s word that cleanses the heart (Jer 5:14); as God’s righteous judgment and wrath against sin (Is 66:15-16); or as agent that burns and purifies sin and uncleanness, thus making people faithful to the covenant (Zec 13:9). Jesus wishes that the earth were already ablaze, though he realizes that first he must undergo his “baptism” which entails his passion and death (“immersion into water”) and his resurrection (“emerging from the water”). And with the paschal mystery accomplished, the Holy Spirit comes in the form of “tongues as of fire” that fills the Apostles with courage and knowledge (Acts 2:3).

The blazing fire also affects the disciples. Their brave allegiance to Jesus will set them against family members who do not believe in Jesus, or who hold beliefs and values that are contrary to the Gospel. But peace in the family does not come in putting familial concern above the things of God and faithfulness to Jesus. True peace comes with Jesus’ victory over sin, with Jesus’ cross that broke down the dividing wall of enmity (Eph 2:14).

GOSPEL • Lk 12:49-53

Jesus said to his disciples: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the 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, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in- law against her mother-in-law.”

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