The Gospel lesson contains some troubling words. Jesus says he has come to cast fire on earth. He faces a baptism and is greatly distressed until its done. He speaks of not bringing peace but division.
Isn’t it John the Baptist who promised fire? When Jesus speaks of his own ministry he assures us that the Spirit of the Lord is upon him. He has been anointed to proclaim good news and the year of the Lord’s favor. At his birth angels declared peace on earth. At his entry into Jerusalem the crowds proclaimed peace on heaven. So what’s going on with Jesus in our gospel lesson from Luke 12:49-53?
Well there is a hint of the violence to come when his parents brought him the Jerusalem temple a few weeks after his birth. Simeon took the child in his arms and blessed God giving thanks that now he is able to depart in peace. He has seen God’s salvation with his own eyes. This salvation is for everyone Gentles and Jews.
However, Simeon also told Mary that her son would be the great divide in Israel. Some will rise and some will fall when they encounter Jesus. The true intents and thoughts of many will be revealed.
Jesus will cast fire upon the earth on Pentecost with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. But first he must pass through a baptism, not in the River Jordan, but on the cross. Through his baptism on the cross the salvation which Simeon beheld and held will be accomplished.
Those who follow Jesus will find peace in him, but also division as faith cuts through families dividing humanity into two camps, those who follow Jesus and those who oppose and reject him.
In the Prayer of the Day we ask our merciful Lord to, “give us grace to receive with thanksgiving the fruits of Christ’s redeeming work and daily follow in his way.”