Setting the earth on fire

Would that those who report the news and those who offer commentary find it necessary to provide us with the truth, unvarnished and unstained by the fickle brush of bias and disdain. Too often the meaning or intent of the oratory or the written word conflicts with ‘modern sensibilities’ resulting in a spin far different from what was intended.

Jesus on fire

Jesus on fire

Imagine Jesus in the here and now. What commentary would his words provoke? Would we hear what he said without objection or denunciation? Let us spend a few minutes imagining what ‘experts’, those ubiquitous so-called talking heads, might have to say about Jesus.

Host:

As we just heard Luke report, this man Jesus has been telling his disciples: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!1 Clearly incendiary remarks, no doubt intended to incite his followers, calling on them to burn the world to the ground while they chant “Burn, baby, burn!” It must be quite obvious to anyone with even the slightest bit of intelligence that what we have here is a radical fanatic, harboring a Messiah complex, with apocalyptic delusions. Wouldn’t you agree, Rabbi?

Rabbi:

Of course. Of course. As you most certainly will recall, we heard him also state very clearly “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.2 What else can we believe than that here we have a madman who intends to create chaos and widespread destruction wherever, whenever, and however he can.

He must be stopped at all costs. But what is the government doing about this man? Nothing! They are ignoring the problem I tell you. They won’t even identify him for what he is a radical fanatic! I say, “Crucify him3 and the problem goes away.

His disciples are weak and afraid. They will quickly scatter to the four winds. But we must eradicate this scourge, we absolutely must, and quickly if you don’t mind my saying.

Host:

I certainly won’t disagree with your candid and expert analysis there, Rabbi.

What thoughts do you have on this man Jesus, Saul of Tarsus? Do you agree that he represents an existential threat to our national security?

Saul:

Thank you kind sir for including me in this discussion today. There can be no doubt that this Jesus fellow is a radical fanatic but I would argue that he is no Jew since he seems bent on converting the entire world, both unsuspecting and naïve Jews, who are Yahweh’s chosen people, and pagan Gentiles, whom Yahweh has clearly rejected as unworthy of his divine covenant. Clearly, he is a bigot who hates the Jewish people.

I would like to suggest that perhaps a better identifier for this man might be radical Christian fanatic. No need to taint the faith of Yahweh’s Chosen People with his apostasy.

Furthermore, this man, this fanatic actually believes himself to be the Son of Man, equal to Yahweh in all his glory. It is blasphemy I tell you, blasphemy! I am completely in agreement with the Rabbi: “Crucify him!” It will certainly be good riddance and none too soon, in my considered opinion.

Imagine encouraging division within the family! Father against son, son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother and even getting the in-laws to go against one another. Insanity, pure insanity! And dangerous. If this so-called religion were to catch on there would be no end, no end I tell you, to the divisiveness and chaos it would most assuredly produce.

Host:

You raise some excellent points there, Saul. Families should take extreme caution whenever their children are outside their homes. Children are especially susceptible to this kind of radical propaganda. It is difficult to imagine just how traumatic it would be to suddenly lose a loved one to such a cult. I simply can’t imagine the pain and agony of losing a child.

Our final guest today may present us with a completely different point of view, one that may shed some light on this radical and his cult of fanatics.

Indeed, Simon, son of Jonah, is one of the twelve first chosen by Jesus, and supposedly has been tapped to lead this band of heretics and their disreputable rabble.

From what I have been able to discover, Simon was a fisherman by trade, as were a number of the other twelve, and fell under the influence of this radical fanatic so much that he simply walked away from his obligations, including his family, when he heard Jesus simply say “Follow me.”4 It has been reported that his family is now in desperate financial straits, but obviously the man has no compassion or honor or shame.

Simply unbelievable if you ask me, but then why don’t we ask the man himself. So, Simon, or should we call you Simon Peter or Peter, what do you have to say about this cult and this radical Christian fanatic Jesus?

Peter:

Thank you for having me on your show. Simon Peter or Peter either is fine with me, and Jesus didn’t ask me to follow him, nor did I walk away from my family and obligations, we are doing quite well, thank you, and I trust your viewers will recognize your comments as completely false and unfounded. Again, there appears to be no end to the lies and urban myths created by those who would like to destroy Jesus and silence his message. His enemies will use every trick in the book to do so including denigrating and ruining the reputations of his disciples.

I also find it amazing how quickly what Jesus has said is taken so completely out of context, distorted and twisted, almost beyond recognition. Certainly no one in authority is comfortable with what he preaches because he preaches not of an angry, demanding God but of a loving God, a God who loves all peoples, not just a chosen few. But please don’t misunderstand me, when Jesus speaks of God he speaks of the one God, the God who is known by the Hebrews as Yahweh. There is no other God. The only distinction that Jesus makes is that God is not just about retribution and punishment, God is very much a God of unlimited love.

Jesus calls for peace throughout the world and wants us to love God and to love our neighbors, Jews and Gentiles, as we love ourselves. And that is precisely what has the temple leaders and government officials squirming on their thrones. They see their positions and their livelihoods in jeopardy if Jesus succeeds in bringing all peoples to the God who loves.

Now as for his latest remarks, which once again his opponents have taken completely out of context, if you had been following and listening to Jesus from the beginning you would understand that burning the earth to the ground is as absurd an idea as filthy pigs flying. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Jesus has told us many times that he has come to show us a “more excellent way5 to live. If that is what defines a radical then so be it, but I certainly don’t believe that is how you are wanting to use it. His sole purpose on earth is to offer himself up for our salvation, not just for Jews but for all of God’s creatures, including the Gentiles.

Jesus came to challenge us, to incite us, if you like, to spread the Good News of God’s love throughout the world. That is what he meant when he said that he had come to set the earth on fire: to ignite our hearts with love for God and to light in them a blazing fire of love for one another.

Naturally, while he wants all of God’s children to come to him, he understands that there will be those who will resist or even deny both he and his message. That is why he so readily admits that his presence and message will inevitably cause division.

He forces no one to believe in him or to follow him. All who wish to follow him must freely deny themselves and take up their own burdens each day. And that gentlemen is the fire that Jesus has come to ignite—the fire of love—and it will no doubt spread over all the earth. Amen.

Homily # 082
20th Sunday in Ordinary Time — Cycle C
Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10
Hebrews 12:1-4
Luke 12:49-53


1 Lk:12:49
2 Lk 12:51.
3 Lk 23:21.
4 Lk 9:23.
5 1 Cor 12:31

Deacon Chuck

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: http://deaconscorner.org. Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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