Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?
No, I tell you, but rather division.
-- Luke 12:51
Fire is a symbol for God manifest on Earth. Moses encountered the
burning bush. Ezekiel’s visions are laced with fire. When the Holy
Spirit descended upon the Apostles, it took the form of tongues of fire,
touching each of them.
Jesus wants to fuel the fire of faith.
I sense a certain exasperation on Jesus’ part in today’s passage from Luke,
as if He is trying to drive home a point that his listeners don’t get. Just
a few sentences after the reading for today, Jesus calls members of the crowd
hypocrites and upbraids them as unable or unwilling to understand.
In saying his message will sow dissension in families, Jesus is simply giving
us a fair assessment of our human nature: We make choices. We are free to
make choices. And not everyone will agree with our choices. Of course the
choice to follow – or to reject – Jesus will cause division, most especially
in families. Families often disagree.
Sometimes, our own hearts are divided. We once returned from a vacation
trip to find that our home had been broken into and vandalized. Our oldest
daughter’s room was targeted. We suspected a neighbor girl about the same
age as my daughter. When our suspect confessed and apologized, I felt anger
and a desire to punish her. Fortunately I made a different choice. But I’m
not sure my daughter understood when my wife and I, after discussing it,
chose to forgive the neighbor child and leave the punishing to her own parents.
It was a difficult time. How much more difficult for families when greater
matters are stake!
My spiritual director, like Jesus in today’s Gospel, challenges me to examine
daily whether my focus is on God or on myself. When the focus is on me, I
am loyal to just about anything EXCEPT Jesus. If my focus is on God, I am
loyal to the Lord who desires mercy and not sacrifice. Sometimes that puts
me on a collision course with the rest of the world, my own family included.
Steve Kline has been a thoughtful and
faith-filled reflection writer since the beginning of the Daily Reflections
seven years ago. Steve is leaving Creighton University and we will
miss his reflections. We send him with our prayers for success in his
new venture. You may contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org.