24 October, 2013. Thursday of the Twenty Ninth Week

Rom 6:19ff. Freed from sin and slaves of God, you are destined for eternal life.

Lk 12:49ff. Jesus lights a fire on the earth, through the baptism of the Passion.

First Reading: Romans 6:19-23

I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.

When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Gospel: Luke 12:49-53

“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.”

When the heart is enslaved

Today’s readings set up a series of paradoxes. In Romans Paul speaks of being slaves of God; does this make God a slave-driver? We instinctively feel the problematic clash between Jesus’ words that “I have not come to establish peace but division” and his other assurance “Peace  is my gift to you” (Jn 14:27).  We must meditate longer, to allow the Scriptures display their harmony in a new way.

Paul centres on God’s love for us – a love that goes beyond all logic. We can hardly explain fully to another’s satisfaction or even to our own, why we love someone. Deep love in a sense makes “slaves” of us, but not a slavery of fear but a slavery which sets us free from shame and fear. If we are swept beyond our own control and risk everything for the sake of life in Christ, we experience a new level of love and a new integrity surrounds us, body and soul.

In the gospel Jesus appears enslaved by love to the Father’s holy will. The language is strong in its echo of inner emotions, “How I wish the blaze were ignited!” Jesus was swept beyond his human understanding, almost beyond his human tolerance and patience. The references are clearly to his passion and death, particularly as Luke develops the theme of Jesus’ ministry, with 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 (Luke 22:42,44).

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