St Ignatius of Loyola is the founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits)
There is an interesting incident narrated about a couple of tourists who visited the Jesuit headquarters in Rome.
There is a large statue of the St Ignatius majestically displayed in this house.
>> Underneath are also inscribed the words of the Saint to his friend St. Francis Xavier, when the latter was commissioned to spread the Gospel across the globe:
“Ite, Inflammate Omnia!”
When translated, the motto reads: “Go and set the world on fire!”
As, the two tourist friends admired at the words of the wonderful saint and were speaking about the greatness of the saint…
… One of them noticed a fire-extinguisher that was placed on the adjacent wall
(The red-coloured fire-extinguisher was of course, placed, in case of any emergency)
But seeing the motto of the Saint and this fire-extinguisher from the same view, the tourist made an interesting comment:
“Well! The Saint asked us to go and set the world on fire…
… but we Christians, probably seem more to be going around with a fire-extinguisher and putting it off!”
Every Christian is expected to set the world on fire…
But are we people “on fire”?
>> Or is the “fire” dying out, and failing to have its intended effects?
Our Blessed Lord was greatly filled with zeal to “set the earth on fire”…
… and desires all His followers to share in this passion for the Kingdom of God.
The Gospel of the Day begins with Jesus exclaiming:
“I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing” (Lk 12: 49)
“Fire” in the Bible is an imagery of many aspects…
>> God’s judgment (Jdt 16:17; Is 66:16; Am 7:4; 2 Pt 3:7)
>> God’s protective presence (Ex 13: 21, 2 Kgs 6:17)
>> Purification (Nm 31:23; Ez 22:19-22, Zec 13: 9),
>> The Holy Spirit (Mt 3:11, Acts 2:3).
>> God’s Holiness (Dt 4:24)
>> God’s glory (Ez 1:4, 13)
Fire also has many characteristics:
>> It warms… refines… transforms… burns!
The Lord who was greatly zealous to “set the earth on fire”, invites us to examine:
>> Am I filled with zeal, to blaze the world “on fire”…
… the fire of God’s love?
… the fire of God’s purging mercy?
… the fire of God’s judgment with respect to sin and evil?
The following two verses of today’s Gospel passage comes in as a shock!
>> “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, division!” (Lk 12:51)
The Gospel of St. Mathew’s version of the same verse reads:
“Do not think I have come to bring peace. I have to come not to bring peace, but a sword… (Mt 10: 34)
These verses become more surprising in the context of…
>>The Sermon of the Mount where in Mt 5:9, it says, “Blessed are the peacemakers”
>> The description of the Messiah where in Is 9: 6 it says, “He (Messiah) will be called “Prince of Peace”
Why does St Mathew use the words “peace and sword”?
>> Why does St Luke use the words “peace and division”?
This could be a technique called “Juxtaposing”.
Juxtaposing simply means to place two things side-by-side or next to each other…
… especially to compare or to emphasize on the contrast.
This technique is used extensively in the Bible…
>> “Unless a grain of wheat dies, it will not give life” (Jn 12: 24)
>> “Light shines in the darkness” ( Jn 1:5)
>> “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit” (Mt 7:18)
Thus we see…
… life and death
… light and darkness
… good and bad
This “juxtaposition” we also observe in our daily life.
>> Any artist or a person with some aesthetic sense will vouch for the fact that, in order a highlight some light-coloured flowers in a bouquet…
… a darker background is preferred.
>> Even in our style of dressing, we prefer to wear dark-coloured trousers…
… along with light-coloured shirts.
The logic is simple: Juxtaposing two contrasting stuff emphasizes the meaning.
Peace, is generally defined as a situation where there is no violence or war.
>> Sword, on the other hand, signifies conflict, struggle and death.
Peace, is normally understood as a situation of calm and absence of conflicts
>> Division, on the other hand, points to disturbances, instability and turmoil.
What is the meaning of this usage of “juxtaposition” in today’s Gospel passage?
The Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy (Rom 14: 17)
To establish this peace or this Kingdom of God…
… sword is an inevitable reality!
… division is an inescapable consequence!
>> Disturbances, instability, turmoil, conflict, struggle and even death is a real possibility!
That’s why Jesus would go on to say:
“From now on a household of five will be divided… three against two and two against three…” (Lk 12: 52)
>> These verses are an import from Mic 7:6 which speaks of “division in the household”.
In the Jewish Society…
… the household was one of the strongest units of loyalty and binding.
However, Jesus shatters all these pre-conceived notions and demands:
“Loyalty of a disciple to Jesus is to be much higher than even to his own household!”
All intimate relations, even that within the family, are to be given subordinate status in our Love for Jesus.
It is also interesting to note the order of people mentioned in Lk 12: 53:
… Father v/s Son, Daughter v/s Mother, Daughter-in- law v/s Mother in Law.
It is always the young v/s the old.
What could be the meaning?
The Kingdom of God will cause a sword of division…
… It will be a division of the Young v/s Old!
Young and Old are not to be considered in the physical sense… but in the spiritual sense!
Young as being people who are “new”… those by giving up a life of sin, choosing to be part of the Kingdom of God.
>> Old as being those people who are “unrepentant”… those who cling on to sinful ways and oppose the Kingdom.
The Kingdom of God is always characterized by people who are willing to be “new” in the Spirit…
… young at heart and mind, full of dynamism and full of enthusiasm.
What are the implications of all what we have said today?
1. The establishment of peace in the Kingdom of God is always accompanied by the sword of division
>> Are we ready to face the struggles and difficulties that surely will come on our way, as we work for the Kingdom?
2. In this our mission of establishing the Kingdom, we are demanded to have a loyalty to Jesus that is higher than all other relationships.
>> Are we ready to sacrifice? Perhaps our relationships or our way of thinking or even our lifestyle – all for the sake of loyalty to Christ?
3. The Kingdom of God demands that we always be young – dynamic, enthusiastic, cheerful and energetic.
>> Are we ready to always remain Young at heart and in mind, for the sake of the Kingdom of God?
Jesus, Who was greatly filled with zeal to “set the earth on fire”…
… desires all His followers to also share in this passion for the Kingdom of God.
Yes, let us become Christians “who set the world on fire!”
God Bless! Live Jesus!
Quotable-quote-a-day-with-St Francis de Sales (SFS) – “Examine from time to time what are the dominant passions of your soul, and having ascertained this, mould your life…
… so that in thought, word, and deed you may as far as possible counteract them!”