“No, I tell you, but rather division.”
Both the rhetoric and substance of Jesus’ proclamation in today’s Gospel passage are challenging. It’s challenging to know how rightly to interpret His words. The fire of His baptism is the source of the division that He has come to establish. How can we understand these words and images in our own daily lives as disciples?
The most obvious interpretation of the fire that Jesus mentions is in light of God the Holy Spirit. Through the graces that first were given at Pentecost in the Upper Room, the Holy Spirit inflames the hearts and minds of those called to be members of Jesus’ Mystical Body on earth. Formed by the Holy Spirit into one Body, these members live out the baptism of Jesus. Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan was a foreshadowing of His baptism on Calvary. This latter baptism is the one which the Body of Christ today lives out. As His members, you and I have to bear our share in this baptism if the Holy Spirit might use us as the Father’s instruments.
If we are faithful to the Father—allowing the baptism of Jesus’ suffering to be the vessel for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit through us—division will result, as Jesus describes in today’s Gospel passage. This is not division for the sake of division, but for the sake of unity. We pray in the midst of all division, that every person may recognize and accept his share in the life of the Trinity.