Homily for the twentieth Sunday of the year - Year C - Lk. 12:49-53
Father Daniel Meynen
"Jesus said: 'I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished!'
" 'Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division; for henceforth in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against her mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.' "
"I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished!"
John the Baptist, announcing to the Jewish People the coming of the Savior, said: "I baptize you with water; but he who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into his granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire." (Lk. 3:16-17)
These words of John the Baptist clearly illuminate what Jesus says in today's Gospel: the Son of God came into the world to bring Salvation to the men and women of all nations through the Blood of his Cross! For only the Cross of Calvary can plunge all of humanity into a fire that burns with a purifying love!
From the moment of his Incarnation, the Son of God made Man never ceased to desire the supreme moment in which he would finally be able to testify to his love for his Father by dying on the Cross of Calvary: "I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished!" Indeed, what is it to receive baptism, if not to be plunged into the purifying love of God, that love of which the death of Christ is the concrete, unique, and absolutely perfect sign?
Let us listen to Saint Paul in the following passage from the epistle to the Romans, a passage I am fond of quoting: "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?" (Rm. 6:3) Elsewhere, in the letter to the Hebrews, the author allows us to see very clearly that Christ offered himself to God in the Holy Spirit, who is the Love of the Father and of the Son, that Love of God who purifies man of his sins in the Blood of Christ: "... how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God!" (Heb. 9:14)
" '... how I am constrained until it is accomplished!' "
Jesus is distressed... Would we not also be distressed if we were in his place? And in fact we are, a little... For Jesus is our model: he shows us the way, and the road to follow. If Jesus desires to be baptized in his death, then we should desire the same, for ourselves... But is this not a distressing situation? Will we be capable of such an act? At the hour of trial, will we be true disciples of the Lord? This is a little of the anguish of Jesus... We cannot truly understand this anguish, because it far surpasses us...
For, on one hand, Jesus is God, and he knows with certainty that he will go all the way and that his victory will be to die for all men on the wood of the Cross. But, on the other hand, Jesus is Man, and he undergoes a mortal anguish so intense that in the Garden of Gethsemane, on the eve of his Passion, he sweats drops of blood: " 'Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.' And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down upon the ground." (Lk. 22:42-44)
"Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division; for henceforth in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against her mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law."
Did we have to wait until the coming of Christ for there to be dissension in families? Alas, no... Family dissensions already existed, long before the birth of the Savior of men. So then, what does Jesus mean? It is not possible that he was mistaken, since he is God... Therefore, he is correct when he says that he is at the origin of dissension in families...
Indeed, what was humanity's very first family dissension? Although Adam and Eve sinned more or less together, the Book of Genesis does not tell us that they quarreled afterwards: they agreed to live out their long repentance together... But, later on, their children did not conduct themselves in such a good manner. Or at least Cain did not: "And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell... Cain said to Abel his brother, 'Let us go out to the field.' And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him." (Gn. 4:4-8)
The murder of Abel by Cain demonstrates that humanity's very first family dissension originated in jealousy, but it was jealousy of a spiritual order, the most terrible jealousy there is! Indeed, Cain was vexed by the fact that God had regard for Abel's offering but did not have regard for his. Now, Abel's offering was already a sign of faith in the promise of the Messiah who was to come! Thus, Christ was truly the cause of the first family dissension...
But this is not something we are doomed to undergo! If Jesus reminded to us that dissensions would take place because of him, it is precisely in order that we might take care to avoid them! Dissensions there were, and dissensions there will be. But we should do all we can to prevent them, and, if they have already occurred, we should do what we can to quell them, as much as possible...
May the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, the Queen of Peace, help us with her prayer, in order that dissensions in families, in countries, between the peoples of all cultures and religions might disappear forever, if God so wills!