Thursday, October 26, 2023
Jesus was well aware that his teaching was not easy and would arouse opposition and rejection among many. This is because the Lord God makes a clear distinction between what comes from Him and what comes from the evil spirit. Not everyone likes such clear requirements. That is why Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel passage do not seem to match our idea of Him.
What fire is Jesus talking about? The commentary in the Jerusalem Bible translation offers us two explanations. The fire is the Holy Spirit who purifies and inflames people’s hearts. It is the fire that was ignited on the cross. After the previous divisions of humanity, this fire-initiated unity. This fire is capable of purifying gold. Christ brought the fire of God’s teaching to earth to purify and burn that which does not correspond to the Father’s will and does not serve man. The demands of the gospel do not destroy, but purify, ennoble and give value.
But fire is also a symbol of spiritual warfare. Where there is war, there is fire. Jesus does not want to threaten us. Jesus warns us and prepares us for this war we fight within ourselves against our weaknesses, sins and imperfections. And he also prepares us for the war we become part of, willingly or unwillingly, when we sincerely and openly profess our faith in Christ. It is not unusual for there to be people who fight against Christ and the Church. In many parts of the world, there is still no freedom to profess one’s faith, and confessing Christ is tantamount to being imprisoned, harassed or even executed to death. Sometimes this struggle takes place even in our immediate surroundings. Jesus foresaw it two thousand years ago. But it is always his fire that wins, the fire of the Spirit and Unity, not the belligerent fire of destruction. Especially now, in Mission Week, we ask Christians to persevere in faithfulness despite the worldwide struggle against Christ, goodness and the Church.