Thursday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time
The specter of nuclear holocaust may induce some to think that Jesus’ words in the gospel today are soon to be fulfilled. But, of course, annihilation is not what Jesus has in mind when he says that he comes “to set the earth on fire.” Likewise, Jesus should not be taken literally when he denies the mission of bringing peace to the world. Jesus remains the Prince of Peace whom Zachariah prophesied as guiding the people into “the path of peace.”
The fire that Jesus kindles is actually the desire in our hearts to be morally good. Touched by his Spirit, we are no longer content with sexual gratification, monetary reward, and the obeisance of others. Instead, we seek to be like God Himself who bends down to lift up the lowly. The division that Jesus foretells is not so much the fractioning of households into those who are for and against him but the struggle that goes on with ourselves to do what is right.
Taking up the campaign to be good like God, we begin to see how Jesus really does bring peace. Passionate desire for another gives way to harmonious co-existence with him or her. Seeking virtue becomes our objective at every turn. We can even extend an olive branch to family members who alienate themselves from us in our pursuit of righteousness. We come to recognize the fire that Jesus has set in the world is actually a flame of love purifying us so that we might enjoy eternal life.