Jesus’ intensity and passion break out in radical expression in today’s Gospel. He yearns for a divine conflagration in the hearts of his disciples. Jesus endured a true baptism of immersion, steeped in the pain of Golgotha, precisely so that our baptism would not be a mere ceremony. Rather, he wanted our baptism to be a holy spark of divine life that, with care and formation, would become a growing flame of authentic Christian holiness. Indeed, let us fan that flame and never allow external pressures, or our mediocrity, to extinguish it.
In this gospel passage, Jesus corrects a misperception in some of his listeners. Some no doubt expected him to usher in the messianic peace when the lion would lie down with the lamb (see Isaiah 11:6–9). No, the time for that peace will be at history’s end, when God’s Kingdom is established in all its fullness. Till then, Christianity will often find itself in conflict with the powers of the world. We want to be considered nice people, yet our convictions will at times bring us to conflict. May the spark of our soul be a strong-enough flame to accept those moments and avoid the cheap peace of acquiescing with the world.
Courtesy, gentleness, and the finer details of charity should characterize the person who wants to be like Christ. These kinds of people seek to unite, not divide. When they are dividers, it is because they have to be. They know when the point arrives that if they bend any further, they’ll break — where flexibility would degenerate into infidelity. There are tough, sad moments when being faithful to Christ means a head-on collision in a very important relationship, such as the ones Jesus mentions. But when it’s a question of where are our first loyalty lies, there is no debate. Christ must come first.
Lord, you are the center of our life. We thank you for our families and pray that we will never be a stumbling block for their faith. Give us the wisdom to know when to speak and when to remain silent. Help us, so that we will never compromise the Gospel, nor needlessly alienate those whom you have sent us to help get to heaven. Amen.
Father Michael Adams is the Pastor of Our Lady of the Shoals Catholic Church. Learn more about him here.