‘In those days Jesus said: ‘ I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already! There is a baptism I must still receive, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! ‘Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on, a household of five will be divided: three against two and two against three; father opposed to son, son to father, mother to daughter, daughter to mother, mother-in-law to daughter-in-law, daughter-in-law to mother-in-law.’
This is one of those words of the Lord that is not easy to understand. We call Jesus the “Prince of Peace” and we like to emphasise those biblical passages that particularly reflect His love. There is no doubt that it is the Lord who brings true peace! By making it clear that this is “true peace”, we make the distinction between the peace that comes from Him and the “apparent peace” that the world knows. In the same way, it is necessary to distinguish between true love and false or imperfect love.
The fire which the Lord wants to cast upon the earth is the Holy Spirit; and His baptism is the crucifixion which He would suffer for mankind, before sending His Spirit.
Now this fire is already burning, constantly testifying to the truth of the Gospel, announcing the Death and Resurrection of Christ, exhorting to keep in mind the Return of Christ at the end of time and impelling evangelists to tirelessly proclaim the grace of Redemption and call men to conversion.
But this also means that the hour of decision has come for men. The rejection of the gospel has far-reaching consequences. If the light of the gospel is deliberately rejected, man’s soul remains in darkness, unenlightened. If the person has not yet heard the proclamation of the Gospel, or if it was transmitted to him in a deficient or even distorted way, then his soul remains in ignorance.
In the encounter with the Gospel and the Person of Jesus comes the hour of grace and thus also the hour of truth. True peace is only possible in reconciliation with God, in accepting His forgiveness. True love can only exist in truth!
Now this reality of God also enters into the closest family ties. Accepting the message of grace means that God begins to occupy the first place in your life, and that you dedicate this life entirely to Him; that your way of thinking is transformed, and therefore also your criteria for action. You begin a path of constant inner conversion, so that the Holy Spirit can act more and more effectively. Since the Spirit of God wants to lead us into the fullness of truth (cf. Jn 16:13), which includes both the truth at the level of personal life and the truth itself, strong tensions can arise even with people who are very close to us, which can lead to hostility.
The discord to which Jesus refers is not the product of a mere difference in opinions and views, nor of sympathies or antipathies; it is a confrontation between light and darkness. It can become so strong that not only family ties are affected, but that they explode completely.
Consider, for example, what happens if there are abysmal moral differences within the family. The family may regard abortion as a lawful possibility for family planning, whereas the person who has known God can never agree to such a practice. In this case, discord will be inevitable and even necessary, for truth leads to discernment and decision.
It is truth that separates light from darkness and shows the way to true love. It leads to the division of spirits within families, communities, nations and even the Church, when they are not united in truth. It is a purifying fire and a great inner light.
May the Lord grant that all people may be open to the truth and united in God, and that families too may understand their mission more deeply and live it in Him.