Saturday, 17 August 2013

Fire to the earth

GospelLuke 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 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.’

There is a phrase, or state of mind, that circles faith communities these days known as Cafe Christians. Not an opportunity for like minded folk to meet up over a coffee, although there are a few of those around. A Cafe Christian shops around from the various belief structures, limitations, rituals and traditions. They may be mostly 'this' or 'that' but reserve their right to choose whatever fits best with their conscience or comfort zone.

 In all truth, it is a recent branding of how many people follow their beliefs. A 'written in stone' obedience to the letter of any denomination is measured against the awareness that there are thousands of other churches to choose from. Surely a tacit permission not to toe the party line if your heart tells you otherwise. It would be hoped, that after all the 'this and that's' there would be a simple truth that continues through it all; a common thread of faith.

In  the  times of Luke's Christian readers; the likelihood of division, even within families, was a reality. Healthy argument was part of the Jewish study of scripture; but the Law was another matter. Jesus' teaching challenged the limitations that had been imposed on Scripture. The two Great Commandments, that the questioning Scribe recognised, had been overshadowed by if's and but's and understanding of the Messiah was tainted by a desire for power and retribution. 

The two Great Commandments remain in shadow in these times too. We love the God who thinks like us and the neighbour who does likewise. The Word of God that seemed so clear and direct now has a new set of if's and but's. 

As Richard Rhor often points out in his talks, the Catechism tells us that God loves everybody and then spends the next x pages giving us the exceptions. And there are so many exceptions the division seems heading for infinity. 

Is this the world Jesus was looking forward to? The world he accepted a baptism of blood for? The world set alight with a holy fire?

Perhaps, instead of viewing the division from the eye of judgement and discrimination,  we should use the eyes of love. It's easy to imagine the destructive power of fire  - yet imagine a fire that feeds and protects; a fire that lights the darkness with love. A love that continues to blaze in the darkest of times; bringing hope and reconciliation and allowing us to see each other clearly.  Love that does not accept that exclusion is right; that judgment is right; that cruelty, neglect or disdain is right. Light that will, one day, overcome. 

In the paradox that this reading suggests, those that stand for love and peace must be witnesses to that truth and the struggle that that entails. 

Sometimes that struggle becomes much more than a disagreement across a pew bench or a dining room table. All over the world, people are suffering; because they don't fit in; because they won't fit in; because they are deemed not neighbours but strangers. And for that they are persecuted, their crosses trailing in Jesus' footsteps. If we are not part of the persecuted, surely we should support our brothers and sisters who are?

 Where is the power of love and peace? 

The power; given by the Holy Spirit, is in our hands. The many gifts, wisdom, courage, fortitude, right judgement.. arm us for a challenging spiritual life. 

 Peace on earth is a peace for people of goodwill -people of God's will. If that is who we believe we are, how do we live out God's will?  How do we define our neighbour... and always - where is the love?



Claire Bangasser said...

I very much like your take on this passage, Word. Thank you. My heart and mind can rest in your wisdom and love.

Roberta Desalle said...

The (my) underutilized" gifts of the Holy Spirit. I needed the reminder that these are made available to me, for me, so I can seek the peace of Christ and pursue it for myself and with others.

Gelli Ma said...

Thanks both; it's a dfficult passage and I'm still not sure I said what I meant to say - glad to hear it spoke of Wisdom's gifts - the reminder that we are not alone.