I think I will take the readings Jer 38:4-6, 8-10 of today Lk 12:49-53 and apply them in an abstract way. Rather than applying them to my life, I will apply them to the Mass and what it projects. In pondering the liturgy I look at the readings in terms of the Mass as it is said today. That Mass of today has its origins in the council of 50 or so years ago. The readings from todsys Msss are one of division and conflict. The Mass or the new Mass is the one of folk guitars and happy songs of people gathering around a table. It is one that always tries to be joyous and uplifting, a positive experience. It describes a banquet, and the table of the Lord. It is a table where all are welcome, and where all have an opportunity to participate. To a large extent the Mass has been manipulated by liturgists, and parish councils, and music directors, and architects, to convey that positive and uplifting message. It is a Mass that has often been crafted around schoolchildren, and is one that has been crafted to send a joyous message. Pain, and anguish, and war, and violence are kept at a distance. Today’s readings deal with that other part of the Mass. Those readings refer to fire, and baptism, and agony, and division. It is not a message of holding hands, but of flying fists.
Its message is not seen in a table of plenty, but in the altar of sacrifice. It is seen in the image of a bloodied Body hanging on a Cross. It is the Passion and the Agony that are redemption and salvation. It is the message that surrounds the church walls in the form of the Stations of the Cross. Often these are the images that the liturgists try to keep suppressed. They are disturbing and uncomfortable. They are also the sacrifice that is behind Christian Joy. It is the Passion of Christ that leads to Christian Joy. That joy does not exist without it. A reminder that redemption and salvation come at a cost. They are paid for with the Body and Blood of Christ. Salvation is not free, but Jesus freely gave up His Life for our salvation.
The divisions of ancient times are the divisions between the Lord and the Pharisees, between the Jew and the Gentile. They are also that universal battle between good and evil, God and the evil one. The truth is that battles do exist, and they always exist. Ponder the archangel Michael.They are the temptation in the desert and the temptations of life. Today they are the culture wars, the reminder that it takes commitment and determination to remain Christian. It is a battle, and faith often is something that needs defense. They are the battles between the haves and the have-nots. A reminder of the Christian obligation to the dignity and welfare of all people, and not simply a chosen elite. Not all agree, and that is a conflict. It often is a fight to give someone food from the table. Christian dignity as taught by Christ. The Table might remind one of the banquet, the Altar reminds one of the struggle to achieve that heavenly meal. The Cross is the reminder of what was done not “for Christ’s sake” but for ours. It is the reminder to “do unto others as I have done for you.” It is the reminder of the commitment and determination and sacrifice it takes to be a Christian.
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 baptized,
and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!
Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?
No, I tell you, but rather division.
From now on a household of five will be divided,
three against two and two against three;
a father will be divided against his son
and a son against his father,
a mother against her daughter
and a daughter against her mother,
a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law