In John chapter 7, in his priestly prayer Jesus prayed that all be one, not only those who believe in him but even those outside. In today’s gospel he tells us of his coming to bring fire and division on earth, division in the very family itself! How do we understand what he says and prays for? How do we understand Jesus? The answer is that we rarely understand him or his teaching!
However, is it that difficult to understand what Jesus speaks about the fire and division? Do we not actually find in the very same family those who believe in Jesus and those who do not, some even opposing what Jesus did and said and what Jesus stands for? Does it not create friction in the family? Are there not people among us who presume to be following Jesus and hates or disowns their own children and siblings because of the latter’s lack of faith and their living outside or contrary to the faith in Jesus? Is it this kind of disowning and distancing that Jesus wanted when he tells us to forsake father and mother, brother and sister? I don’t think Jesus means any of these.
He invites us to strive for the Kingdom and its values and in order to do that our parents, children and siblings should not stand in the way. It means our first and foremost priority must be God and his kingdom and its righteousness. To seek this righteousness we must first understand that the very same people, with whom we keep our distance for whatever reasons, belong to the kingdom! It is by taking these along with us that we fulfill the righteousness of the kingdom.
When Jesus speaks about his bringing fire on earth, on to the family, it is very often the reality of our existence; that is, we create divisions for flimsy reasons and often for no reason at all. We create division and even fire in the name of Jesus! That is, division is almost imbedded in us, in our mind. We find it easier to find reasons that divide us from one another rather than reasons that unite us together. Sometimes this reason for division happens to be God and faith or lack of faith in God.
If it is true faith in our God, it should teach us that all of us, we, our children, siblings and those not belonging to our ‘small family’, all belong to God and God to them. Often we fail to recognize this true God to whom everyone and everything belong! The mission of Jesus and our mission is to bring about this unity on earth.