GOSPEL: Luke 12: 49-53, I am not here to bring peace, but rather division.
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already! There is a baptism I must still receive, and how great is my distress till it is over! ‘
Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on a household of five will be divided: three against two and two against three; the father divided against the son, son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.
The Jesus of today’s gospel is not the Jesus we are most familiar with. This is a challenging Messiah, one who forces us to make choices, to take positions even when it means disagreement. He has come to bring fire, he says, the fire that purifies, that energises and that consumes.
There are times when we are forced to stand up for the beliefs and the values we have put our trust and faith in. There are times when we have to respectfully disagree while standing up for what we know to be right. Parents are forced into these situations all the time by the behaviour of their adult children or occasionally, it happens the other way around. We ought not to be overawed by the education of our children or put off by their cynicism. You have a wisdom that is very precious for having lived and there are valid responses to most of the objections people raise against us despite all the imperfection.
The practice of our faith ought to mean that we become salt to the earth and light to the world, that we become living signs of how things are in the kingdom of God. This means standing up for that which we believe is true and right and taking a principled stand against that which is contrary to the gospel. Good example and principled living is a most effective witness to the gospel and every community worth the name is built on people who live such lives.
Our values should set us apart from the herd that follows the ways and fads and fashions and promises of the world. We can differ from others, even our own families as the gospel makes clear yet at the same time not disrespecting them or rejecting them. Our vocation is simply to make clear where we stand and why we believe our stance is justified. Others usually respect those who do this more than they respect those who have not got the courage to stand up for their beliefs and who consequently sway with the breeze and go with the flow. The person who seeks to please always and everybody is as misguided as the person who seeks confrontation for the most trivial of reasons.
Difference does not always have to mean division. We can disagree and still have a respect for the human nature of another, made in the image and likeness of God like ourselves. It is humanly impossible to like everybody or to agree with them. Our duty is to treat them with dignity and respect, not to wish them ill and to be open to reconciliation with them, if and when that becomes possible.
Christ spoke of a baptism, of an ordeal in which he would be tested. He spoke of fire, of purification and energy. Let it be our hope that we too will be courageous in giving witness during our lives so that when the great division comes at the end time we may be called to the right hand side for having had the courage to trust in the promises of the scriptures, for having purified ourselves in life and in the spirit who appeared as a tongue of fire, for having stood up courageously for the tenets of our faith and for having witnessed to the person of Christ even at the risk of division.