Lectio Divina: Luke 12:49-53
1) Opening prayer
Almighty and everlasting God,
our source of power and inspiration,
give us strength and joy
in serving you as followers of Christ,
who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Luke 12: 49-53
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 what constraint I am under until it is completed! '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; father opposed to son, son to father, mother to daughter, daughter to mother, mother-in-law to daughter-in-law, daughter-in-law to mother-in-law.'
• The Gospel today gives us some phrases of Jesus. The first one on bringing fire to the earth is only in Luke’s Gospel. The others have more or less parallel phrases in Matthew. This leads us to the problem of the origin of the composition of these two Gospels for which much ink has already been used throughout the past two centuries. This problem will only be solved fully when we will be able to speak with Matthew and Luke, after our resurrection.
• Luke 12: 49-50: Jesus has come to bring fire on earth. “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 what constraint I am under until it is completed!” The image of fire is frequently mentioned in the Bible and does not have just one meaning. It could be the image of devastation and punishment, but it can also be the image of purification and illumination (Is 1: 25; Zc 13: 9). It can also express protection as it appears in Isaiah: “Should you pass through fire, you will not suffer” (Is 43: 2). John the Baptist baptized with water, but after him Jesus baptized with fire (Lk 3: 16). Here the image of fire is associated to the action of the Holy Spirit who descends at Pentecost as the image of the tongues of fire (Ac 2: 2-4). Images and symbols never have an obligatory sense, totally defined, which does not allow some divergence. In this case it would be neither image nor symbol. It is proper to the symbol to arouse the imagination of the listeners and onlookers. Leaving freedom to the listeners, the image of fire combined with the image of baptism indicates the direction toward which Jesus wants people to turn their imagination. Baptism is associated with the water and it is always the expression of a commitment. At another point, Baptism appears like the symbol of the commitment of Jesus with his Passion: “Can you be baptized with the baptism with which I will be baptized?” (Mc 10: 38-39).
• Luke 12: 51-53: Jesus has come to bring division. Jesus always speaks of peace (Mt 5: 9; Mk 9: 50; Lk 1: 79; 10: 5; 19: 38; 24: 36; Jn 14: 27; 16: 33; 20: 21.26). So how can we understand the phrase in today’s Gospel which seems to say the contrary? “Do you think that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you , but rather division”. This affirmation does not mean that Jesus himself is in favor of division. No! Jesus did not want division. But the announcement of truth that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah becomes a reason for much division among the Jews. In the same family or community, some were in favor and others were radically against. In this sense, the Good News of Jesus was really a source of division , a “sign of contradiction” (Lk 2: 34), or as Jesus said: “from now on a household will be divided, father opposed to son, son to father, mother to daughter, daughter to mother, mother-in-law to daughter-in-law, daughter-in-law to mother-in-law”. That is what was happening in the families and in the communities Much division and much discussion as a consequence of the Good News among the Jews of that time, with some accepting and others denying. The same thing could be applied to the announcement of fraternity as a supreme value of humanity living together. Not all agreed with this announcement because they preferred to maintain their privileges. And for this reason, they were not afraid to persecute those who announced sharing and fraternity. This was the division which arose which was at the origin of the Passion and death of Jesus. Jesus wants the union of all in truth (cf. Jn 17: 17-23). It is like this even now. Many times where the Church is renewed, the call of the Good News becomes a “sign of contradiction” and division. Persons who lived very comfortably for years in the routine of their Christian life do not want to be disturbed or bothered by the “innovations” of Vatican Council II. Disturbed by changes, they use all their intelligence to find arguments to defend their own opinions and to condemn the changes, considering them contrary to what they think is their true faith.
4) Personal questions
• Seeking union Jesus was the cause of division. Does this happen with you today?
• How do I react before the changes in the Church?
5) Concluding prayer
Shout for joy, you upright;
praise comes well from the honest.
Give thanks to Yahweh on the lyre,
play for Him on the ten-stringed lyre. (Ps 33: 1-2)