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August 14, 1992     The Message
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]_August 14, 1992 The Message m for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana Commentary - I 9 By FATHER DONALD DILGER Gospel Commentary for Sunday, August 16, 1992, Twentieth Sunday, Cycle C: Luke 12:49-53 Today's gospel reading is very difficult. These five verses have been a cross for inter- preters tom the beginning. Luke has gathered sayings of Jesus into this chapter into an arrange- ment that seems without connection to the pre- ceding section, a parable about being watchful for the return of Jesus as judge. Since the gospel is so short, let us examine it verse by verse. I came to castfire upon the earth, and I wish that it were already kindled. We cannot say with total certainty what this fire symbolizes. Perhaps it has several meanings. Earlier in the gospel we read about the one who comes to baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Biblically speaking, fire is often used in the sense of cleansing agent, for example, Malachy 3:2, compares the Lord's messenger to a refiner's fire. Also Mark 9:48: "Ev- eryone will be salted with fire." Secondly, fire is used as symbol of final judgment, for example, Luke 3:17, where the wicked are said to be burned with unquenchable fire. Thirdly, Luke connects fire with the coming of the Spirit in the Pentecost scene of Acts 2:3. The saying could therefore mean that Jesus brings cleansing to the world, that he brings judgment upon the wicked, that he brings the Holy Spirit. I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and how I am stressed until it is accomplished. In the context of Luke we are situated on the Fire and sword, not peace: Ckristianity divides families journey to Jerusalem. That journey began with the words: "When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face for Jerusalem." This describes Jesus' determination to see through to the end the purpose of his mission. "Baptism" is used here as a metaphor for suffering. An exam- ple: in reference to his approaching suffering Jesus asks James and John if they are able to be baptized with the baptism which he is about to undergo. Jesus is to be plunged (baptized) into his suffering and death and he is determined to go through with it. In the Garden of Gethsemane he will be tempted to beg out of it, but he over- comes the temptation. Do you think I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. This is indeed a strange saying in view of the message of the angels at Jesus' birth: "Peace on earth to peo- ple of good will." And when Jesus enters Jerusalem, his disciples shout: "Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" But Luke is living in a Church that has already undergone persecution, a Church in which family members betrayed other family members who had become Christians. He therefore looks at the situation as it is. Christian- ity has brought division into his society, even as it does into our society. The moral principles of Christianity are not acceptable to all. A good commentary on the division Christianity brings is Bishop Gettelfinger's "Bishop's Forum" of July 10, 1992, in The Message, on the sin of abortion. To express the severity of division between Christian and society and between Christian and Christian Matthew is more explicit when he writes that Jesus said: "I have not come to bring peace, but a sword." Since this sword of division strikes at the very core of society, the family, Luke adds: "From now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three.., father against son, son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother," etc. Not a pretty picture, but this de- scribes what Luke actually saw within his own Christian community and beyond. Christianity has brought division, even the sword, from its beginning to this day. Even the apostles with Jesus present were not always at peace with each other because of ambition and envy. Is this the final word on the matter for Luke and for us? No way! If there is an overriding theme from the beginning of Luke's gospel to the end of his second book, Acts of Apostles, it can be expressed as a message of repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation. Accompanying this theme is the theme of Christian joy. Thus Luke can end his gospel, a gospel that portrayed divi- sion, betrayal, death, with the post resurrection sentiment: "The disciples returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually.., praising God." The poison of division is always present, but the antidote is also given. Other readings for Sunday, A ugust 16: Jeremiah 38: 4-6, 8-10; Hebrews 12: 1-4. Box 68 Montgomery, Indiana 47558 Donald J. Traylor Main Street Pharmacy :" 7 F. 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