August 18 : Twentith Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C – Fire upon the Earth

August 15th, 2013


Jesus makes an important statement in today's Gospel.
a. "I have come to bring fire on the earth." This is not the fire of destruction, the fire that ravages rain forests every year. It is the fire of heat and light. It is the fire that cleanses and purifies. It is the fire of God's presence as in the burning bush that Moses saw, as in the pillar of fire that accompanied the Israelites in the desert, as in the tongues of fire at Pentecost where the bringing of fire was mandated to the disciples, to the Church, to all of us. As a purifying fire it can also bring pain and purification but it ultimately leads to conversion and liberation.
c. "I have come not to bring peace but division." It is especially painful to hear the Gospel speak of families being broken up because of Jesus. But this is less a prophecy or an expression of God's will than a description of the Church's very real experience from the time the Gospels were being written down to our own day. In many countries, both Christian individuals and Christian communities are seen as a threat to governments, various power groups and other religious groups. We saw this in practically every Communist regime during this century: the Soviet Union, the East European satellites, China and Vietnam. And these governments had reason to fear even though Stalin mockingly asked once how many divisions the Pope had. Yet it was the faith of Christians, who, without firing a shot (Stalin was right), was significantly instrumental in the collapse of Communism in Central and Eastern Europe. Yet, in the long history of the Church, how many families have suffered because members became Christians? Most of us – especially those who have lived in non-Christian or anti-Christian societies – probably have met someone who was rejected by their family for becoming an active Christian. And, not infrequently, persecution comes even from other Christians, from within the Church itself. And how many people realize that there have been more martyrs for the faith in the supposedly advanced and civilized 20th century than in all the preceding centuries!