20th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C
The Reality of Jesus and the Status Quo
I don’t like reading this gospel—probably no one does. Who wants division? We see what evils division brings every day. We don’t need more. So, why would Jesus’s purpose be to bring division?
I don’t think Jesus wanted to bring division, but I think He knew His presence would be divisive. His prediction in this passage is more what will happen as opposed to what He wanted to see unfold. Any desire reflected in the verses, “…how I wish it (the earth) were already blazing!” (v.49), reflecs Jesus’s desire to see the realization of His Father’s kingdom. He wants to see evil vanquished. He wants to see what causes us to stray burned up. He wants the end result, eternity. Unfortunately, Jesus knows that, thanks to free will, to get to the end result, the Kingdom, we have to walk through the fire.
Isn’t that always the way? Don’t we have to hit rock bottom to decide finally to decide to make changes? We have to go through the fire. Jesus knows us too well.
For the kingdom to be realized, we have to put ourselves out there in His favor. That means crossing people, making people uncomfortable, losing the status quo. It’s scary, and it will make enemies. Jesus doesn’t want these things to happen, but He does want us to be out there in the name of God.
Jesus wants peace, but He hasn’t come to bring peace at all costs. He wants true peace; that doesn’t mean putting a bandaid on our problems. It means changing things, fixing them. It means stirring up the status quo.
Know how when you really want to change something, you start with the externals? Maybe family dinner is important, so you go to the grocery to have the ingredients to cook. But schedules are wonky and people don’t show up. Then, you something else—maybe you fix everyone’s favorite food only to serve it at an empty table. It isn’t until you look at why schedules are wonky that you find the root of the problem—prioritizing other activities over the family dinner. But to alter the priorities means making hard changes, changes in where your family’s values lie. You have to decide if those changes are worth sticking your neck out for. It might even take a family crisis to bring you to that point.
Jesus’s coming makes us all go deep, past the externals, down to our priorities. Not everyone will want to shake up the status quo. There will be pushback. Jesus is ready to take the pushback. He’s ready to “set the earth on fire” (v. 49). Are we with him? Or do we prefer things the way they are? Are we ready for the division that being a follower of Jesus brings?