An interesting incident is narrated of how some years ago, the prime minister of a certain country was speaking before several distinguished leaders as well statesman.
>> He was severely critical of his predecessor who was known to be a harsh dictator.
While he was speaking someone from the audience sent up a note:
“How about you? What were you doing when the dictator committed all these atrocities?”
At that, the Prime Minister – filled with fury and rage – shouted:
“Who sent up that note?”
Not a single person stirred.
“I’ll give him one minute to stand up!”
The seconds ticked off.
>> Still no one moved.
“All right, I’ll tell you what I was doing.
>> I was doing exactly what the writer of this note was doing – exactly nothing!
I was afraid to be counted!”
As a Christian, am I afraid to be counted…
… and thus fail to stand up for Christ and His Values?
Every Christian is expected to set the world on fire…
… by being passionate in their love for the Lord
… and being compassionate to the people of God!
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 verse of the 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)
>> “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit” (Mt 7:18)
>> “Light shines in the darkness” ( Jn 1:5)
Thus we see…
… life and death
… good and bad
… light and darkness
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 vs Son, Daughter vs Mother, Daughter-in- law vs Mother in Law.
It is always the young vs 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 vs 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!”…
… and strive to be sincere followers of Christ who are ‘willing to be counted’ to stand up for the Kingdom Values!
Let us seek the intercession of St Antony Mary Claret, the founder of the Congregation of the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (known as the Claretians), on his feast day today…
… and let us be inspired by his life and words:
“The Christian who desires to follow Jesus carrying his cross, must bear in mind that the name ‘Christian’ means ‘learner or imitator of Christ’…
… and that if he wishes to bear that noble title worthily, he must above all do as Christ charges us in the Gospel:
>> We must oppose or deny ourselves, take up the cross, and follow Him!”
God Bless! Live Jesus!
Quotable-quote-a-day-with-St Francis de Sales (SFS) – “If we walk steadily and faithfully…
… God will lift us up to greater things.”