Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 14th August 2022

Luke 12:49–53

Jesus said to the crowds, "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."


In a few sentences Jesus gives his disciples an outline of the work he has come to do, how he will suffer in carrying it out, and the division it will cause among men and women. Some will accept his message, others will oppose it.

“I came to cast fire upon the earth…,” said Jesus. Fire is a symbol of purification in the Old Testament. His gospel will purify the gold and separate it from the dross. John the Baptist said that Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit and fire, that is, those who accept Christ will be filled with the Holy Spirit and be

Jesus then wished that “the fire were already kindled!”. What he meant is it will not be until after his death and resurrection that the Holy ‘spirit, with the accompanying fire of purification and love, will come upon his followers.

He then referred to his own baptism: “I have a baptism….” He calls his sufferings, which ended on the cross, a baptism – a plunge into the depths of torture. He foresees all his sufferings, and this is a cause of anguish, an anguish which came to its climax in the agony in the garden. At the same time he is wishing to see its results, the descent of the Holy Spirit with the fire of divine love, accomplished.

He raised the question: “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth?” his coming was to establish peace and sonship between mankind and God, a peace which will have its perfection only in heaven. Because he will have opponents as well as followers, as Simeon had foretold at the Presentation in the Temple (Luke 2:34 ), his very gospel of peace will be a cause of division and opposition. The gospel which should bring peace to all mankind will always be rejected by some. Not only will they be without his peace themselves, but they will disturb those who have accepted the Christian message.

Jesus told his disciples that he would bring division. This is a statement of fact, not of intention. He foresees the future and knows that, because of sinful men, his gospel of peace will become a source of strife and dissension.

He went on then to describe the dissension and strife which his message will cause, even in the one household. This was especially fulfilled in the early church, first among the Jews and later among the Gentiles. Down through the centuries there have been many sad examples of nation warring against nation because of Christianity, and citizens of the same race and nation at loggerheads because some rejected Christ, or because of differing interpretations as to what his message is.

Christ foresaw his sufferings in their minutest details, and like any human being this foresight and anticipation caused him anguish of spirit. He also foresaw the result of his sufferings – the elevation of mankind to be sons and daughters of God, and heirs presumptive of heaven. This far outweighed the load of sufferings because he loved us with an infinite love.

He came to light a fire on this earth. He lit that fire and it is still burning brightly in the hearts of many. Unfortunately for them, there are far too many in whom it has turned to ashes. That he foresaw also, and it added to his anguish of spirit. The thought that his sufferings and his humiliations would be in vain for so many, added greatly to his grief.

We who appreciate what he has done for us, and who are striving hard against our natural weaknesses to profit by his salvific work, can do something to console him for the desertion of so many that he still loves dearly. God wants not human being lost eternally. He detests sin but he still loves the sinner. He is always ready to grant a full pardon for each and every sin we commit, if only the sinner has the humility to say “mea culpa”. Amen.