Deacon Steven Johnson’s Reflection
Reflection for the 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Thursday, 10-20-22, Year C
Readings: Eph 3:14-21; Ps 33:1-2,4-5,11-12,18-19; Gospel Lk 12:49-53
Optional Memorial: St. Paul of the Cross, Priest
Theme: Choose Wisely
“I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” These words of Jesus’s, at first hearing, would be a cause for concern to most people. Is He talking about His second coming where He will separate the sheep from the goats and consume the earth with fire? Is this the time that those vine branches that are not producing fruit are cut off and burned? Well, in any other setting these things might be true, but not here.
The fire that Jesus speaks of is His love for us. He wants us to receive Him, along with the Holy Spirit, in joy and enthusiasm. He wants us to live a life according to His Gospel so that we may be purified in the fire of His love and spend eternity with Him in heaven. He wants the fire of the Holy Spirit, which is given to us at our baptism, to be burning for Him and the Father. Jesus longs for this to happen when He said, “how I wish it were already burning!”
But Jesus tells the disciples that before that can happen, there is a baptism with which He must be baptized. He is not talking about baptism in water and the Spirit as John the Baptist already did for Him earlier. No, in this case, the baptism of which Jesus speaks is His passion, death, and resurrection. The disciples had already heard Jesus speak of His passion in Luke, chapter nine, but were still grappling with what that meant.
Today’s Gospel gives the disciples a glimpse of the meaning of Jesus’s passion. A passion that is given up for the salvation of all. Jesus will offer Himself on the cross in death so He can rise again and ascend to Heaven where He will send the fire of the Holy Spirit upon us all. But not all will choose to accept it. He warns His disciples of just that.
Through free will, many people will choose not to believe or accept the Holy Spirit in their lives and will continue to build a treasure in this world instead of heaven. Simeon predicted at Jesus’s presentation in the temple by Mary and Joseph that He would be, “destined for the fall and rise of many and to be a sign that will be contradicted.” (Lk 2:34). Jesus and His teachings will be the cause of division among the people, even within families. He did not come to establish peace (one that acquiesces to each individual’s own preferences) but rather division between those who choose to believe in Jesus and His teaching and those who choose not to.
We must choose wisely. It may be hard in today’s world to sort through all of the bramble to find the right path to heaven. There are so many convincing arguments for believing one way or the other with so many different paths. For those of us who have found the right path, it is our duty, our mission commissioned by Jesus, that we help others find it. Unfortunately, when we do, they may not want to walk that path and so choose another. All we can do is show them the path, pray for them and let the Holy Spirit guide them to it.
For those who reject the path to heaven, it is ok to feel sadness and loss for them. We must pray every day for the Holy Spirit to convert their hearts. But Jesus warns us today that this division may very well be within our own families. He wants us to know that our focus must be on Him, first and foremost, above all things, even our families. We cannot stray from the one path to heaven. In these times, take comfort in knowing that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are guiding us on our way and filling our hearts with love and the knowledge that there is always hope for those who are still lost.
As St. Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians today, “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
As convincing arguments, painful separations, and longing for others tug at our faith and try to convince us to pick another path, choose wisely, choose Jesus.