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.”
12:49 fire: A symbol of (1) God’s presence and love (Deut 4:24; Acts 2:3), (2) God’s judgment on sinners (Lev 10:2; Mt 22:7), and (3) divine purification (3:16; 1 Pet 1:7) (CCC 696).
12:50 a baptism: A figure of Jesus’ Passion, when he will be immersed in suffering and death and will rise again to a new life (Mk 10:38; Rom 6:4; CCC 536, 1225).
12:53 will be divided: Loyalty to Jesus is even more important than family unity (14:26), and peace is possible only if we embrace him in faith (Jn 14:27). The demands of Christian discipleship outweigh even the sacred duties of family unity and loyalty (Lk 14:26). ● The scenes of family strife recall Mic 7:6, where the prophet condemns Jerusalem for her rampant injustices (Mic 6:9–7:10). Although families were suffering internal division (Ezek 22:7), Micah assures Israel that the faithful will be vindicated by God. Jesus evokes this oracle to paint a similar portrait of Jerusalem in his own day: disciples may suffer persecution, but they will be vindicated and delivered in the end.
Our Baptism is a submersion in Christ’s death, in which we die to sin and are reborn to the new life of grace. Through this new life, we Christians should become set on fire in the same way as Jesus set his disciples on fire.
The psalmist tells us “My heart became hot within me, a fire blazed forth from my thoughts.” What could this fire be if not the fire that Christ talks about: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!”
During his own life on earth, Christ was a sign of contradiction. Our Lord is forewarning his disciples about the contention and division which will accompany the spread of the Gospel. As His disciples, to live a life as Christ taught, is to be branded as radical in the eyes of a world obsessed with the material self. Be bold – live as Christ anyway.
May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.