20 Oct, Thursday of Week 29
Rom 6:19ff. Freed from sin and slaves of God, you tend towards eternal life. This is the gift of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Lk 12:49ff. I have come to light a fire on the earth, a baptism to receive. I have not come for peace but for division.
A Passionate Heart
The imagery or symbolism of today’s readings sets up a series of paradoxes. For instance, in Romans Paul speaks of being slaves of God; in this case the Lord is a slave-master. And we instinctively feel, surely, a clash between Jesus’ words that “I have not come to establish peace but division” and his other assurance ” ‘Peace’ is my farewell to you, my peace is my gift to you” (John 14:27). Ephesians has already said that Christ is our peace “who has made the two one by breaking down the barrier of hostility.” We must meditate longer, allow the Scriptures to sink more deeply within us and so experience their harmony in a new way.
Paul centres on God’s love for us – a love that always reaches beneath logic and rational control. If we are able to explain fully to another’s satisfaction or even to our own, why we love someone, such love is shallow and suspect. This love is surrounded with mystery. Deep love in a sense makes “slaves” of us, but not a slavery wherein we grovel in fear but a slavery which sets us joyfully on the way to eternal life, freed from shame and fear. Our bodies acquire a new dignity as “servants of justice.” If we are swept beyond our control and risk everything for the sake of life in Christ and eternal life, we experience a new level of love and a new integrity surrounds us, body and soul.
In the gospel Jesus appears enslaved to love and to the Father’s holy will. The language is strong in its echo of inner emotions, “How I wish the blaze were ignited!” Jesus was swept beyond his human understanding, almost beyond his human tolerance and patience. The references are clearly to his passion and death, particularly as Luke develops the theme of Jesus’ ministry, with him “firmly resolved to go towards Jerusalem” where he would be taken from this world. Yet, when the time came for the fulfillment of this plan Jesus was plunged into agony. He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, “Father, if it is your will, take this cup from me.”… In his anguish he prayed with all the greater intensity, so that his sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground (Luke 22:42,44).
We can return to Jesus’ other words with a deeper appreciation of their force and implication: “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? I assure you, the contrary is true; I have come for division.” It is not so surprising that serious division will split families into quarreling factions, each misunderstanding the other. Yet, such division is only temporary. In the flesh of Jesus, where the separation was felt most severely, we find a unifying power that breaks down all barriers and makes one chosen people of Jew and gentile, male and female, slave and free. All are one in Christ Jesus. Only in this way can the justice of God, the fulfillment of God’s promises and of God’s personal love and fidelity, be accomplished.
First Reading: Romans 6:19-23
I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.
When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Gospel: Luke 12:49-53
“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No,I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”