Fires of Division

Luke 12: 49-53
Rom 6:19-23 / Psa 1:1-4,6

Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.
(Luke 12:51)

We must be bold to face the fires
Of life’s trials and tribulation,
This much from us our faith requires
For our own sanctification.

Jesus said: “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. For from now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three. A father will be divided against his son and a son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” (Luke 12: 49-53)

Reflection

“I have come to bring fire on the earth.” This is clearly a prophecy of the persecutions that the early Church would suffer as the pagan world, particularly Rome resisted the spread of the Christian faith. The historian Tacitus wrote about the great fire that destroyed most of Rome in 64 AD, and the emperor Nero putting the blame squarely on the Christians. Consequently, many of them were burned at stakes “to serve as torches at night”, and others fed to wild animals. For centuries, the persecutions of the followers of Christ would continue, culminating in the reigns of the emperors Diocletian and Galerius at the end of the 3rd and beginning of the 4th century AD. It is said that more than 20,000 Christians were martyred during the rule of Diocletian alone.

Aside from persecution, the “fire” that Jesus spoke of also symbolized other things. In the Old Testament, it was usually the manifestation of “God’s wrath” against evil, such as when fire fell from heaven to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. (Gen.19:24-25). Moses called down fire from heaven as one of the ten plagues against the obstinacy of Pharaoh (Exodus 9:3). The prophet Elijah also called down fire from heaven that destroyed the soldiers of King Ahaziah who were sent to arrest him (2 Kings 1:9-17).

But Jesus was not talking about the Old Testament kind of destructive fire. Our Lord was simply conditioning His disciples about the baptism of fire that He would soon undergo, and which they too would have to follow. However, they would be given the fire of the Holy Spirit first on Pentecost so that they could persevere in their trials of fire in their mission to spread the faith. Perhaps Jesus was also making a prophecy about the fire of division that His Church would undergo in the future generations. For instance, the early Church was almost divided between the camps of Sts. Peter and Paul, due to the question of applying Judaic laws to the gentile converts. Then came the breaking away of the Eastern Orthodox Church from Rome. This was followed by the fire of Protestantism that split Christendom in Medieval Europe. Even in the present age, the Church continues to be rocked by the so-called liberation theology advocated by some members of the church hierarchy, and the disobedience of Catholic Masons.

Our own renewal Brotherhood was not spared of this fire of division. Five years ago, our community also experienced a division of our chapter into East and West. For the first time after seventeen years as a single chapter, we felt like being “torn in two.” At first there were apprehensions that the sudden reduction in numbers might affect the attendance in our prayer meetings and breakfast fellowships. But our fears were proven wrong when more guests were being invited to fill the vacuum. In the end, it turned out that it was necessary for our multiplication, and its fire, we’ve realized, was also one of purification, because many of us have gained a stronger faith for it. As St. Paul’s letter to the Romans expressed so clearly in today’s First Reading: “The benefit that you have received leads to sanctification, and its end is eternal life” (Rom.6:22b).

Dear God, may the fire of the Holy Spirit transform us and fill us with boldness, to be brave that we may enkindle Your message of salvation in the hearts of other people. Amen.

Comments are closed.