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20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus said to his disciples: "I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 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 his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law."

Introductory Prayer: I believe in you my God. You called me into existence from nothingness and you carefully watch over me. Nothing escapes your Divine Providence, and even the ills I suffer are allowed by you for my greater good. I trust in your infinite goodness, and I place in your loving hands all my fears, hopes, needs and desires; everything. I love you Lord, and I wish to love you more deeply still.

Petition: Jesus, use me to set the earth ablaze with your love.

1. Set the Earth on Fire. Jesus’ passion for his mission is striking. What his Father wants of him is not an imposition that he stoically puts up with, and unwelcome intrusion to be slavishly fulfilled, while wishing he could be doing something else. He is not just forcing or convincing himself to “grin and bear it”. His Father’s will, our redemption, is his personal, driving, all-absorbing passion, which he describes as a fire that consumes him. Some people’s passion is explosive, visible, tinged with emotion. That should not confuse us, for it has a lot to do with one’s temperament. But just as reflective of Jesus’ passion is that slow-burning but intense fidelity of those who persevere in difficulty, who remain faithful in spite of ridicule, who daily fulfill their duty despite its mind-numbing routine, and who continue to pray in spite of dryness and apparent fruitlessness.

This “fire” is also Jesus’ description of his love for us. His “mission” did not end with his Death and Resurrection; his love continues, his sacrifice is ever-present, he is accessible to us in the Eucharist, in his word and in the Church. He remains with us because he continues to be consumed with love for us. Consuming fire is also the description of the love that he would like to see burning in our own hearts and attitudes towards all. He would like to see each one of us live with the same personal interest and love the path that God has chosen for us. 

2. Jesus Can Be a Source of Division. This is a sore point and lead to finger-pointing and judgmentalism, and has often been used as a reason against missionary work. Does Jesus come into a peaceful, united world only to disrupt it with division? By no means! The historical world at his first coming was rife with division and cruelty, despite the “Roman Peace” that reigned. The world of today no less. And what are we to say of the inner world in each one of us? Human nature and human society without Christ is a slave to the weaknesses and disordered passions of our fallen human nature. The “division” that Jesus brings is his salvation, the call and ability to rise above this fallen nature with the power of his grace. This brings division, for not everyone receives this grace, and unfortunately not everyone who receives it lives up to it. We feel that division continually, the call to greater things and the pull to less heroic, mediocre or even evil doings. St Paul felt it and describes  it: I do not act as I mean to, but I do the things I hate… (Cfr Rom 7,15-25).

Jesus is also telling us that fidelity to him is above any family tie or social grouping. Following his will is to rank above any other sense of duty that we may have. When we opt for the path Our Lord has in mind for us, we’re choosing a good, not the division that may temporarily be caused by that choice. We need to rely on Christ’s grace to maintain kindness, humility and joy at all times with everyone. These are sure signs of being blessed by God.

3. Jesus is also the solution to division. The passion that burns in Jesus is also a passion for peace and unity. Those who love him will strive to spread that love, his redemption is for all, and he prays for the unity of his followers. He wants all the sheep to be gathered in one fold under one shepherd. But he plans on working that unity through us. Not all of the divisions men suffer are caused by Christ, but all can be overcome in him. He is the true and only valid source of unity of the human race. Of that we must be convinced. 

Jesus is first and foremost the solution to the divisions that like deep in our nature and in our hearts, the Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde we each are in some way. Words and appearances we cultivate that do not correspond to the weakness and tendencies we recognize in ourselves. The person we would like to be is so different from the one we are. We need to each day admit this and ask Jesus to help us take if even one small step towards healing. We need to trust and to work with his grace, knowing he wants to heal us and make us whole, and never give up.

And when we actively work on healing our own internal divisions we become different people in the way we deal with others. Only then to we become true agents of peace in the world around us: the circle of our family and friends, and the greater circle of society.

Conversation: Jesus, set my heart on fire with love for you. You have given me everything that I have. Everything I have is yours. Take it and use it for the glory of your name, the salvation of souls, and the establishment of your Kingdom.


1. What is my attitude toward “where God has placed me” or “what God wants of me?

2. Do I allow Jesus to separate me from what is not according to his will?

3. How intensely do I look to Jesus to heal my weaknesses and internal divisions?

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