TWENTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY ‘TIME -Jer 38:4-6, 8-10 Heb 12:14 Lk 12:49-53
The Christian Life Is Not a Spectator Sport
Life Is a Race; Keep Your Eyes on Jesus; The Personality of Jesus; Commitment; Jesus’ Strength; Doing What You Have to Do; Telling the Real from the Fake.
Each of us has two aspects about us that are important — personhood and personality. Personhood embraces our reasoning powers, which enable us to transcend immediate needs and understand what life is all about, and our will, which enables us to love. Personhood is where good and evil reside. Personality, on the other hand, consists of those surface characteristics which appear to other people and attract or repel them. A nice way of laughing, a good way of talking, and gracious manners attract, while their opposites repel. A bad person can have an attractive personality, and a good person can have a repelling personality. We like to believe that it is one’s personhood that matters, but when all is said and done it is often personality that wins out.

With Jesus, it is helpful to know not only that his personhood consisted of the two natures of God and of man, but what his personality was like. Those who overemphasize the gentleness of Jesus’ personality traits are scandalized by a Gospel passage like today’s, which emphasizes Jesus’ strength. Many pictures and statues of Jesus overemphasize Jesus’ humility, gentleness, and kindness, depicting him as almost a long—haired sissy.

Today, Jesus speaks with a mixture of anguish and fear about having to light a fire on the earth and undergo a baptism. Both fire and water are ambivalent symbols. Fire from the earliest history of human —kind has fascinated people. It is both awesome and wondrous on the one hand, and terrifying on the other. Fire is so wondrous that early civilization created the story of an ancestor, Prometheus, stealing it from the gods. It was around the fire that the household gathered, that humankind perfected speech, made up songs, and explored the mysteries of life. It was around the fire that our ancestors sacrificed to their gods, and smoke that carried prayers heavenward linked religion and domesticity.