Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth?
Jeremiah and Jesus lived and died trying to change the course of human history particularly by denouncing all kinds of evil and proclaiming God’s faithfulness. Jeremiah and Jesus are both dealing with people who think that they are “good people.” After all, they are God’s chosen people, they offer sacrifices, therefore, God is on their side. For many years Jeremiah warned his own people about a coming disaster. But for saying this, he was expelled from the community. He was not killed outright, but put in a well where no one could see, hear, or be influenced by him (Jer 38:6). Jesus spoke of bringing division, fire, and family strife and for speaking like this, he was baptised with death (Luke 12:50).
A fire that was very familiar to the people of Jerusalem burned at the local garbage dump, in a valley called Hinnom on the outskirts of the city. There, refuse from the city smoldered and burned to ash. But the fire that Jesus brings is a blessed fire that spreads from Jesus himself, who burns with a wild love for the world. This is emphasised by the personal repetitions like, “I have come,” “I wish,” “I have a baptism,” “I am here,” and “I tell you.” The adult Jesus who is speaking was the child whose birth was announced as bringing peace (Luke 2:14) and also prophetically recognised by Simeon as a source of division (Luke 2:34). As Jesus makes his way to Jerusalem which is his final destiny he burns with zeal for his heavenly Father and for the mission of love he brings to the world, and this love will cost him dearly.
My dear brother and sisters, could we have the same courage and fearlessness to speak and act for what is just, true, and good? But if people are going to react or respond with indifference and hostility then why bother them at all? Because people have a right to know the truth whether they heed to the truth or not! The prophet’s real responsibility is to speak God’s word as clearly and convincingly as possible. So also, Jesus always spoke the truth to his disciples and to the crowds which sometimes brought hurt and division. Jesus never ever forced anyone to follow him. Jesus respected people’s choice even though he knew that their choice was leading them to evil ways and spiritual death. One thing we can be sure about – reactions to God’s word can often cause tremendous division. Some for sure will applaud and some others will fume. That’s why Jesus said he came to bring not peace, but a sword
Today’s families of mixed faith and practice live inside this experience and understand the suffering involved when a family member makes a life choice that other members of the family find hard to accept. This is not an easy text to understand or even to accept. When our struggle with this contradiction leads us to surrender, as Jesus did, to the respect God has for our human freedom and choice, we may feel a burning pain in our chest. But if we fully experience that burning pain, we are experiencing the truth: God does not force us. This fire turns to ash our desire to have control over how and when others change their lives and turn to God. What remains after this burning, ironically, is a peace that is beyond understanding, because we are relating to others as God does, without force.
The challenge of Jesus words is validated by the few young people who show up for total discipleship in Religious life or Priesthood these days. “What will people think” is so deeply imbedded in them that young people are inhibited by a burning feeling of embarrassment of moving closer to Jesus. But if we trust the fire of Jesus love for us, it will gently purify us of our shallow fears, and inflame us with that same wild love of Jesus for the world.
By Susai Jesu, OMI
OMI Lacombe Canada – Vocation Team