When we read Luke 12-49–50 at the beginning of the Gospel, we hear this language of fire and imagine judgment, which makes us feel afraid. The discussion of baptism, which contains a promise, comes after the fire. But what does Jesus want from us? In reality, the fire of judgment is perhaps about our own inability to save ourselves. The cleansing fire reveals that we need God. There is an echo here of John the Baptist’s reference to the difference between his baptism and that of Jesus: ‘I baptize you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Luke 3:16). Fire has a purifying quality: it separates what is valuable from what is worthless. The baptism of Jesus requires us to die to sin and selfishness, that is, to live more fully for God and others.
Jesus warns those gathered in the second section’s verses 51–53 that following him would not be simple, especially since the Gospel would not always bring peace, because it would challenge and confront our lives in light of the Gospel. Given our contexts, this might not always occur, but when the call of nature is worked out and recognized, there might be some contention or strife in families or institutions. Whether it’s to participate in religious activities, go to seminary, enter into religious life, engage in social justice issues, etc. The Gospel’s effects can create division. There is no doubt that many churches have experienced division some time in their histories.
In reality, living our faith passionately will certainly involve conflict, even at the deepest levels of our lives and relationships because following Jesus can bring us into a confrontation with others, even with our closest and dearest. One should stand what is true and just to see the light coming from Christ. For one reason, facing reality makes us realize what it means righteousness from God. We need to accept reality to find its meaning and see the light that the Lord is bringing to us despite conflicts with others.
Blessed Francisco Palau, our founding father, experienced a lot of conflicts in his life and ministry. He was accused of rebellion, and obstinacy against the law of God and the Church, punishable by suspension of all functions of his ministry. (Lt.148) But he was motivated very differently, motivated by the will of the one who had sent him. It distressed him. It cost him. It meant unimaginable pain. Step by step he fell down but because of his truthfulness, humility, perseverance, and resignation to God’s will, he was able to surpass the challenges in his journey.
We pray that we may know how to handle the division and not be the source of it. That being faithful to Jesus and his message can bring life to others. We pray for our family and friends that amid conflicts we may find Jesus in each one of us, the source of unity rather than division.
Think of your life at this moment, where do you find that your values or faith cause others to feel uncomfortable or may even bring division?