Our dangerous God

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Week XX-C, 18 August 2019

Jeremiah 38:4-6. 8-10 ><)))*> Hebrews 12:1-4 ><)))*> Luke 12:49-53

Batanes sunset after a storm, 2018. Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News.

Jesus continues with his “shock preaching” for the third consecutive Sunday today as “he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem” and face his death there.

And his preaching is getting more shocking.

Unlike the previous two Sundays, it was easier to see why Jesus had to shake us with his teachings as he wants us to seriously consider the reality of death that comes “like a thief at night” (Lk. 12:39, Aug. 11). Far from being morbid, Jesus is inviting us to be more concerned with things that last even after death because “life does not consist of possessions” (Lk. 12:15, Aug. 04).

This Sunday, Jesus gets bolder with his teaching of three provocative statements that challenge and motivate us in being like him who is “resolutely determined” in facing his passion and death by setting the world on fire, eagerly awaiting another baptism, and the most controversial, bringing division – not peace – among us his followers.

Jesus said to his disciples: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptised, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!”

Luke 12:49-50
Sunset in Athens, Greece by Dra. Mai B. Dela Pena, 2016.

These first two pronouncements by Jesus go together like our expression “baptism of fire” to mean an initiation into something very new and life-changing or, as we say these days, a “game changer”.

In St. Luke’s second book, the Acts of the Apostles, we find the Holy Spirit coming down as “tongues of fire” upon the Apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary on Pentecost, filling them with wisdom and courage to proclaim the Good News of salvation by Jesus Christ. For St. Luke, this imagery of the Holy Spirit like fire is very important.

Fire gives heat, symbolising life itself. Without heat, we become cold and die.

Fire also means energy that can move and propel anything including people, covering great distances.

Most of all, fire purifies, removing impurities in so many things including persons.

Since June 30, we have been following Jesus as “he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem” (Lk. 9:51). This is the baptism Jesus is so eager, his Passion and Death on the Cross that leads to Easter. It is a path characterized by fire that emboldens us, purifies us, and most of all, illumines us of the more essential things in life!

From Google.

When we recall those trying moments in our lives, those many “baptisms of fire” we have gone through, there is always that sense of inner joy and gratitude in “passing over” through our little deaths that have made us stronger today. Whether we have triumphed or failed in those many baptisms of fire, what matters most is we went through it, deepening our faith that made us more determined in life.

And one very difficult lesson we have also learned in our little deaths is the painful reality of divisions among us.

“Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.”

Luke 12:51

In this age when sound reasoning is being pushed aside in making decisions on many issues and conflicts confronting us by following what is merely popular as “trending” and “viral” measured in the most number of “likes” or “followers”, we find ourselves plunging into more darkness than ever. What used to be not normal has become normal today like obscenity and profanity. Life is reduced to mere lifestyle with everybody insisting on one’s rights in total disregard of one’s responsibilities that anyone may use whichever toilet is preferred. Death in its many masks has become a solution to many problems that has spawned more serious problems. And worst, in the midst of these discussions that disregard morality, proponents of the Godless ways are the ones invoking the name of God!

Jesus tells us in the fourth gospel that “the peace I give you is not like the peace the world gives” (Jn.14:27) which is often more of appeasing one another, of compromises that eventually fails. Peace is more than the absence of war but is appropriately called the effect of righteousness, of love and justice (Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, #78). And always, that path to peace is the Cross of Christ.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Jesus wants us his disciples going through our little passion and deaths to illumine the world with the Holy Spirit as it is slowly being engulfed in the darkness of sin and evil. And he knows it is not an easy task. Like him, we have to grow in faith completely relying on the Father who vindicated him as he died on the Cross.

Brothers and sisters: Let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. In you struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.

Hebrews 12:1-2, 4

In 1945, the late Fr. Hans Urs Von Balthasar titled a chapter of his book “God is dangerous”, writing that

“He presents his victory over death as an example to be imitated, he draws us beyond our limits, into his adventure, which is inevitable fatal.”

“Heart of the World” (Ignatius Press, 1980)

Yes, God is dangerous — too hot to handle and too difficult to resist. We have all felt like Jeremiah bearing all the pains and sufferings because we have allowed ourselves to be “seduced and duped by God’s irresistible charm” (Jer. 20:7). And despite this harsh reality, we choose to remain standing at the foot of our Master’s Cross because it is there we can see everything more clearly, where we experience real peace.

Would you rather be in grave danger with God on your side or be safe for now with no one and nothing to hold on in the end?

A blessed week ahead! Amen.

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