Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? This is the question posed by Jesus in THIS SUNDAY’S GOSPEL EXTRACT [LUKE 12: 49 – 53]. The answer, of course, is YES! Have a look at Luke’s own pronouncements in his opening chapters: ” … and to guide our feet into the way of peace” (1:79), and: “and on earth his peace for those on whom his favour rests” (2:14).

Peace comes at a price

! This what today’s Gospel reading is all about. Immediately, we need to recall words from the LETTER TO THE HEBREWS which teaches us that the word of God is alive and active. It cuts more keenly than any two-edged sword … it sifts the purposes and thoughts of the heart”(4: 12).

Notice how, in his opening chapters, Luke speaks of guiding our feet into the way of peace, and peace for those on whom his favour rests.

Jesus Christ came to ‘force’ choices and decisions. He came to set fire on and into our minds and hearts. The truth of the Gospel divides people – even those who are closely related. It sifts thoughts and purposes!

See also, what today’s NEW TESTAMENT READING [HEBREWS 12: 1 – 4] teaches. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” The word hostility is important in this general context.

Hostility comes before peace – and peace has to be established. Those who refuse to be guided by the Gospel, and choose not to seek the Lord’s favour, will always be hostile to his way of peace. The author of HEBREWS warns us not to grow weary or fainthearted in our witness and endeavours to present the Gospel as THE means and way of peace. WE HAVE TO BE ON FIRE FOR THE GOSPEL! Recall John’s admonition:how I wish you were either hot or cold! … But because you are lukewarm I will spit you out of my mouth.”{cfr REV. 3:16} This dramatic challenge is part of John’s message to the Churches – it is a message for the Church today – a message for each one of us! Today’s Gospel records Jesus’ proclamation that he came to cast fire upon the earth, and would that it were already kindled.” In so many ways the Lord depends on MY fire, YOUR fire, OUR fire.

Our Letter to the Hebrews tells us to run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.” In some strange but real way we are called, figuratively speaking, to be Christian arsonists! However, we must ensure that the fires we light are Gospel fires. We must always look to Jesus. The moment we start looking into ourselves, the private agendas, we lose the plot, and all hope of real peace vanishes. The fire is not the object or goal. Rather, it is a means to an end ….. and the end is PEACE! We have to know when to turn down the heat – we cannot remain in confrontational mode. A fire does not need to blow things to smithereens in order to give warmth and power.

If we return to the hostility mentioned in our extract from Hebrews, the OLD TESTAMENT READING [JEREMIAH 38: 4 – 6. 8 – 10] provides us with additional matter for reflection.

All the prophets were Christian arsonist. Jeremiah was no exception. Jerusalem was under siege and the king of Judah, Zedekiah, was a weak man who spent his time vacillating between conflicting power groups. Jeremiah ended up disliked and opposed by all the leadership because he insisted on speaking God’s words concerning the right and proper way to peace. Let this Jeremiah be put to death, for he is weakening the hands of the soldiers …” HOSTILITY! Peace would only return to Jerusalem after the long and painful captivity in Babylon. Do not, however, miss the king’s effort of rescuing the prophet from certain death. It was, however, too little too late …. an effort towards peace without the necessary change of heart.

The Lord’s peace comes to us only when the fire of his words and Gospel take up permanent residence in our hearts and minds.

In addition, our commitment to, and working for, peace must be a fire which burns permanently within us, and which requires us to run with perseverance …. looking to Jesus. This is seldom, if ever, easy. So, we need always to remember, no matter the difficulties involved, that the Lord sets our feet upon a rock, (makes our) footsteps firm.” [TODAY’S PSALM 40 or 39].

Peace only comes with a burning, and persevering acceptance of Gospel values in all things. This is the way of ensuring that the Lord guides us and his favour rests on us.