20 October. Thursday, Week 29
1st Reading: Ephesians 3:14-21
May you grasp the depth of Christ’s love, beyond all knowledge
I pray therefore that you may not lose heart over my sufferings for you; they are your glory.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Gospel: Luke 12:49-53
Lighting a fire on the earth, Christ also causes deep divisions
“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No,I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be 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 mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
A heart on fire
Ephesians centres on God’s love for us, a love that reaches beyond logic and rational control. If we are able to fully explain why we love someone, such love may be shallow. Deep love mysteriously makes “servants” of us, but not a slavery wherein we grovel in fear but a slavery which sets us joyfully on the way to eternal life, freed from shame and fear. Our bodies acquire a new dignity as “servants of justice.” If we are swept beyond our control and risk everything for the sake of life in Christ and eternal life, we experience a new level of love and a new integrity surrounds us, body and soul.
In the gospel Jesus is in thrall to the Father’s holy will. The language is strong in its echo of inner emotions, “How I wish the blaze were ignited!” The reference is clearly to his passion and death, particularly as Luke shows him “firmly resolved to go towards Jerusalem” where he would be taken from this world. Yet, when the time came for the fulfillment of this plan Jesus was plunged into agony. He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, “Father, if it is your will, take this cup from me.”.. In his anguish he prayed with all the greater intensity, so that his sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground (Lk 22:42,44).
This can help us appreciate the force and implication of his other words, about division within families. It is not unusual for families to experience serious divisions about religious faith, each distrusting the other. Yet, such division is only temporary, for in Jesus himself, where separation was felt most keenly, has a unifying power to break down barriers and make one chosen people of Jew and gentile, male and female, servant and free. As Paul sees it, “all are one in Christ Jesus.” In him, the fulfillment of God’s promises of a unified mankind, can be accomplished.
Facing a fiery ordeal
In this morning’s gospel Luke gives us an insight into the torment within the heart and soul of Jesus. Jesus says that he has come to bring fire to the earth and wishes that it were already blazing. This is probably a reference to the fire of the Holy Spirit; at the beginning of his second volume Luke describes the Holy Spirit coming down on the disciples in a form like tongues of fire. Yet, Jesus is aware that he cannot pour out the Holy Spirit until he has undergone his passion and death, what he calls a ‘baptism that he must still receive.’ He is soon to be plunged into this fiery ordeal and he declares that his distress is great until it is over.
St Luke presents Jesus as desperately wanting to pass through this ordeal so that the fire of the Spirit can begin to blaze. We stand on the far side of Jesus’ baptism, his passion and death. Something of the fire of the Spirit has taken hold in our own lives. This fire of the Spirit was given to us at great cost, the cost of Jesus’ passion and death. There is an onus on us, therefore, to keep that fire of the Spirit burning in our hearts. We need to keep praying, ‘Come Holy Spirit, fill our hearts, and kindle in us the fire of your love.’
[[Martin Hogan. See his new book: Know the Love of Christ — weekday homily reflections for 2017]]