I am sure that a good number of us might find ourselves a little bit unsettled by Jesus’ rather strong language in the Gospel this Sunday.  Many of us probably would not be expecting Jesus to say that He has come to set the earth on fire or that He was coming to establish division rather than peace, but that is exactly what He says today.  On the other hand we probably simply expect Him to be full of mercy and love and forgiveness, and certainly He is just that. We have become so very accustomed to the stories of His miracles and His many mighty deeds as well as His teachings, His parables, and His proclamation of the Good News, that the language of today’s Gospel may be a bit startling. But, then again, that is perfectly Ok if His word does jolt us a bit because that is exactly what it is supposed to do. Today’s Gospel reminds us that Jesus did not come into the world because everything was just fine with the world, but precisely because every thing was not. If everything was the way it was supposed to be, there would have been no need for Him to come into the world at all. He came into the world to change it, to make things right and to confront and challenge what was not right with it. Of course, whenever the status quo is challenged, there is discord. Let’s face it, we do not like change. We can tend to lull ourselves into thinking that Jesus never did intend to bring anything like fire or brimstone because He was just an all around “nice” guy. But that kind of understanding of Jesus would not be correct. Not that there is anything wrong with being nice-being nice can be a nice thing to be. But, if all we are is “nice” in the face of sin and injustice, I don’t think we will do as well as we would like on Judgment Day.  Sometimes we have to confront evil; sometimes we have to breakout of our own comfort zones and disturb the comfort of others. And sometimes, Jesus’ words and teachings will be at odds with our own practice and put us in opposition to others, perhaps even our own family members, etc.  There is no Beatitude that says “Blessed are the nice.” While we should always approach life with a pleasant disposition, we cannot be “nice” no matter what. Like, Jesus, every now and then, we likely will have to set a fire on the Earth for the sake of the kingdom.


AuthorCathy Remick