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August 14, 1998     The Message
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August 14, 1998

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4 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana Au The mystery of Jesus" mission: Fire, baptism, division By FATHER DONALD DILGER Columnist Gospel Commentary for August 14, 1998: Twenti- eth Sunday: Ordinary Time: Cycle C: Luke 12:49-53. In the collection of miscellaneous material we call the twelfth chapter of Luke's gospel, the most unusu- al part seems to be the sayings attributed to Jesus in today's gospel. The first one: "I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and how I wish it were already blaz- ing?" We receive no help from the other three gospels, for this saying occurs only in Luke. Outside the canonical (accepted as official) gospels, there is a sim- ilar saying attributed to Jesus in the Coptic Gospel of Thomas 10, "Jesus said, 'I have cast fire upon the world, and behold, I am guarding it until it blazes. "' This really doesn't help explain Luke's version of the saying. We may recall that Jesus, who now says he came "to cast fire upon the earth," earlier in 9:54 rebuked the disciples James and John for wanting to call fire from heaven to destroy a Samaritan village that closed its gates to Jesus and his disciples. So what could Jesus mean by this statement? In the Old Testament fire is sometimes used as a cleansing agent, for example in Leviticus 13:52, after a leper is cured, clothes contaminated with leprosy were to be burned. In Numbers 31:23 fire is used for purifying various metals. In Isaiah 33:14 fire is used figuratively for the consuming presence of God and in Jeremiah 23:29 for the word of God which can even cause rocks to break apart. Fire is a widespread sym- bol of judgment in the Old Testament, for example in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19:24. Perhaps more significant is Malachy 3:1-3, where God's messenger is said to come suddenly to God's temple. He will purify the priesthood as the fire of a refinery purifies gold and silver. This statement is sometimes applied to Elijah but also to Jesus. Thus in Luke 3:16 John the Baptizer speaks of Jesus as baptiz- ing (cleansing) with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Luke portrays this statement in more detail in his Pen- tecost scene in Acts 2: 1-4, where the Holy Spirit rests upon the disciples in tongues of fire. The puzzling saying with which today's gospel begins can therefore be interpreted as a longing of Jesus for the beginning of his mission to carry his word throughout the earth, a mission set ablaze at Pentecost. We might add another Lucan statement which describes Jesus' explanation of the Scriptures to the Emmaus pair, "Did not our hearts burn within us, when he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?" Prior to Jesus' mission, however, he himself must undergo figuratively a baptism of fire. Therefore Luke adds another statement of Jesus, "I have a bap- tism with which to be baptized, and what anguished pressure I am under until that is accomplished?" We have seen above how Luke 3:16 describes baptism under the symbol of fire. Since Luke used the Gospel of Mark as a source, he is well aware that Christian theology before him spoke of martyrdom as a bap- tism. Thus when James and John ask for the first places in the hoped for political kingdom of Jesus, Jesus replies, "Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?" Jesus refers to his suffering and death and promises the same baptism to James and John. According to early Christian theology the Holy Spirit, the fire that sets the earth ablaze, could not come until Jesus had undergone his martyrdom. Therefore he suffers great anguish until that baptism of fire has been accomplished. It is an intense longing for the fulfillment of his mission. Thus Luke earlier portrayed Jesus courageously rushing toward Jerusalem determined to die there. Most peculiar of all in today's gospel is a third saying of Jesus, a whole set of statements. "Do think I have come to give peace on earth? No, I you, but rather division. From now on in one there will be five divided, three against two, two against three, father against son and vice versa, er against daughter and vice versa, etc." Is same Jesus of whom the angels sing in Luke's "Peace on earth, good will to mankind?" same Jesus who is described in Luke's gospel in entry into Jerusalem as the king who brings on earth and glory in the highest?" " This set of statements of division is allusion to Micah 7:1-7, where godly to be gone from the earth,.where no one anyone, not even members of one's own family prophet of 700 B.C. is distressed by the lack of justice, moral corruption in both government and vate life, and a decline in family unity. Luke on this to describe not the situation of the effects in his own time of 50 years of Chris "an proclamation. The word of peace which Jesus' brought did not bring the peace intended to the earth to the extent that even relatives each other in the persecution resulting proclamation and conversion to Christianity. where the Lucan Jesus warns, "You will be over even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends, and some of you will be put to death." We can see the statements of today's gospel not so as a prediction but as a recognition of when Luke wrote his gospel. Any who live tian life and proclaim Jesus by their expect a baptism of fire within themselves and others. Such was even promised to the Jesus, "A sword will pierce your own soul also," : Luke 2:35. Readings: Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10; Luke 12:49-53. Golden Anniversary Clinton and Mary Catherine Koester plan to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary with a Mass of Thanksgiving Aug. 22, at 2:30 p.m., at St. Wendel Church, followed by a reception at the Knights of St. John Home. The couple requests no gifts. Clinton Koester and the former Mary Catherine Mauler were married Aug. 24, 1948, at St. Wendel Church. They are the parents of six children, Judy Bittner, Donald Koester, Steven Koester, Janie Herrmann and David Koester, all of St. Wendel, and Betty Sitz- man of Evansville. They also have 11 grandchildren. Mr. Koester is a semi-retired farmer. Mrs. Koester is a homemaker. Special Jubilarians Bernard and Mary Frances (Snyder) Becker of Boonville will cel- ebrate their sixtieth wedding anniversary with a Mass of Thanks- giving at 11 a.m. Aug. 22 at St. Clement Church, Boonville. A reception will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. They were married Aug. 23,1938, at St. Benedict Church. They are the parents of five chil- dren: Michael Becker of Boonville, Marilyn Becker of St. Mein- rad, Kathleen Diebold of Half Moon Bay, Cal., Rosemarie Klump of Decatur, Ill., and David Becker of Fort Branch. They have nine living grandchildren; one grandchild is deceased. They have14 great-grandchiJdreQ.Mr, Becker refired, f.ron Whirlpool n 9.. Built with Q to Save You Time & Money IN Factory and Hwy. 231 (812) 482-1041 Complete ..... Auto Inte Convertib Truck Seats- '-; Custot POST I Complete for you to build. Excellent Prices.AnY OVERHEAD Hundreds Notxy Beat Over 20,000 ,F f DAVIESS Hwy. (812) 200 E, n Tmel