Jesus says to his disciples in today’s gospel from Luke (12:49-53):
“I have come to set the earth on fire,
and how I wish it were already blazing!
Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?
No, I tell you, but rather division.
Most of us would prefer to hear Jesus encourage us to “love one another,” or “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart… For my yoke is easy.” This reference to fire and division sounds so discordant to us. Many of us prefer a “kumbaya” gospel to this one.
I recently saw a quote attributed to Pope Francis: “Pray for the hungry. Then feed them. That’s how prayer works.” We often hear politicians say they will pray for victims of gun violence. We read about the ravages of war and prayers for peace. But then what? What do we actually do about it?
Remember the lyrics from the 1960s song, And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love. Yeah, they’ll know we are Christians by our love? In his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius of Loyola reminds the one making the retreat that “love is shown more in deeds than in words.”
Living gospel values can be unsettling. Maybe they ought to be unsettling. Those values can often clash with our political views or the privilege we have as Americans or enjoying a comfortable socio-economic status. In my experience, though, moments of discomfort are when growth begins. The discomfort can be a symptom of my needing to push beyond, to learn more, to explore new ideas, and reassess my assumed worldview. Let’s all be a bit more uncomfortable and see it as an invitation to grow in faith.