Set Fire to the Earth

Luke 12:49-53

“Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division…”

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that he came to set fire upon the earth but that he was unable to do so until he has accomplished a particular baptism. About what is Jesus speaking? John baptized Jesus in the Jordan, but this is not what he is referring to. Being Son of God and Son of the Immaculate Conception and thus having no original sin, Jesus didn’t have to be baptized by water. He did so, in his humanity, to fulfill the law which he would establish. The Baptism He speaks of here is one in which he states necessarily constrains him. If we look at the Resurrection as the culmination of events in God’s plan of salvation, what necessary thing must pass to facilitate the Resurrection? The answer, of course, is Christ’s passion and death.

Christ’s death and Resurrection loosen the constraints on Jesus, allowing Him to set fire upon the earth. The fire that Jesus speaks of is no other than the third person of the Blessed Trinity, the Holy Spirit. Jesus receives the Holy Spirit at his baptism by John, but we can only receive the Holy Spirit after His Resurrection and Ascension. The Holy Spirit is the person of the Godhead that sanctifies; the one that changes us and gives us the grace to follow Christ. Without the Holy Spirit, we lack the courage and fortitude to follow Christ. With him, we receive the graces necessary to live an authentically Christian life if indeed we chose to.

While the gifts of the Holy Spirit are available to all, only some will accept these gifts and choose to follow Christ. The division that Christ brings is a separation of those who receive the Spirit and follow Him and those that do not. He warns that this division will even divide families and the closest relations. Son against father and father against son will be a result of this division. How could God, in the person of Jesus Christ, sow such division among humanity. Is this not contrary to His nature? Quite the opposite; God wants us to choose Him, but he does not take away our free will. This freedom of man’s will necessarily means that there will be division. 

The good news is that this division is not without hope of reconciliation. With prayer and worthy reception of the Sacraments, we retain the hope that all will convert to Christ. The same division that existed in the time of Christ is still with us today. We are called to heal division without compromising the truth of the Gospel. Unfortunately today we compromise the truth for the sake of trying to be kind to others or not wanting to be judged as close-minded or intolerant. 

What can we do, as members of the mystical body of Christ (The Church) to heal the division in our society and our families today? We are called to be an example of Christ’s love, His justice, and His mercy. We are to admonish sinners while loving them — a short note on the difference between admonishment and judgment. To admonish is to lovingly correct, while to judge is to condemn (or canonize). We are not to judge for judgement is reserved for God alone. We must live the Gospel of truth, for no good comes to a soul by watering down the truth and trying to adapt the truth to the times. The apostle Paul tells us that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. To water down or modernize the truth are the roots of the heresies of relativism and modernism, which are great tools of the Evil One. Just as Christ remained in the truth until the end, so should we persevere in the Gospel with our eyes fixed solidly on Christ. Our hearts must remain open to the graces given by the Holy Spirit through the Sacraments of the Holy Catholic Church.

Given Thursday, August 15, 2019 AD on the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Scott Francis Davis, O.P.

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