Jesus, God’s Anointed One, baptizes with the Holy Spirit and fire. Our baptism commits us to his mission to transform society and cleanse it of sin.

Undoubtedly, Jesus seeks to transform society. He wants us, for instance, to share what we have with the needy and not look out only for ourselves. That is why he unmasks greed as foolish self-deception and self-absorption.

Jesus also wants us to transform ourselves so that we may no longer worry about our basic needs. For we are to seek instead God’s kingdom, with passion for God and compassion for those who suffer. We must wholly and whole-heartedly trust in God. And so trustful, we can then sell our belongings and give alms. In that way, we will also be storing up for ourselves treasures in heaven.

These instances are partly what setting the earth on fire is. Jesus means, yes, to transform society. But in speaking of fire, he shows that he is looking to transform society radically.

Fire destroys and cleanses. So, Jesus comes to set the earth on fire to rid it of selfishness, lies, chaos, injustice. Then, the Holy Spirit can bring about the new creation (Ps 104, 30) and order, where love, truth and justice will reign.

But, needless to say, to transform society is not easy, for we can hardly do any good without conflict (SV.EN I:75). Not only can we easily ruffle some feathers. We may also meet opposition from the powerful who mistake their own interests and privileges for national security. Doing some good may even pit us, our closest relatives or friends against one other.

But fixing our gaze on the Sign of contradiction, we find courage to stand our ground. We cannot water down the Gospel. He wants us to be true to it, even when it means earning for ourselves great anguish and overwhelming trials. Even if it entails giving our bodies up and shedding our blood.

Lord Jesus, make us new and transform us into yourself by your Holy Spirit. Cleanse us from all sin.

18 August 2019
20th Sunday in O.T. (C)
Jer 38, 4-6. 8-10; Heb 12, 1-4; Lk 12, 49-53


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