A Bit of a Challenge

Today’s Gospel is a bit of a challenge, in two parts. The first part states the passionate desire of Jesus, first in the language of fire and then of baptism. There is a sense of something tremendous about to take place, both destructive and purifying, and a sense of foreboding. There is something very human and vulnerable about it, echoing our own existential situation.

The second part of the Gospel reflects the experience of the early church. When a person became a Christ-believer, it could affect the harmony and cohesion of his or her whole family. It may well be that we are back to that situation today. The conscious choice of discipleship and our full engagement with it can indeed be disconcerting if not disruptive for our families and friends.

Following Jesus Will Bring a Challenge

It can be tough, very tough, to follow Jesus. I have often heard people pray very sweetly, “Lord, I want more of you and all that you have planned for me.” I am assuming that those who prayed those words were thinking of all the blessings which would come their way. Jesus never promised only blessings. The road he would walk would include deep hardship and suffering, and it may be no easier for the person who follows him.

Jesus was enthusiastic about the mission given him by the Father. There was energy for it and momentum to carry it out. His desire was in harmony with that of the Father. Jesus has called us to continue that mission of bringing good news and healing. We pray for the gifts we need and for the transformation of desire that brings us more into harmony with him in living out our call.

The Good News of Peace

The good news is prophetic and like all prophetic messages it gets a variety of responses. It is not that Jesus came to bring division, but his message would do so, as some would reject it. Peace was his desire, his gift to all his followers. Peace, I leave you: my peace I give you (John 14:27). Lord, we ask for a deeper sense of peace within our own lives, with each other and with you.

[Readings: Jer 38:4-6, 8-10; Heb 12:1-4; Lk 12:49-53]

Fr. Nnaemeka Paschal Ajuka

Fr. Nnaemeka Paschal Ajuka, PhD., BCC., ACPE Certified Educator Candidate, is a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Umuahia, Nigeria, and a Board-Certified Chaplain with the Association of Professional Chaplains (APC) and National Association of Catholic Chaplains (NACC). He is a retreat preacher who loves his faith. As a sociologist, he cherishes and operates from the vertical and horizontal relationships with God and neighbor. He takes Saint Francis of Assisi’s prayer for peace “Lord make me an Instrument of Peace,” as his ministry mission statement. He is a care provider who meets human needs without discrimination. He has been actively involved in the pastoral ministry in parishes in Nigeria and in the US. Previously, he was an adjunct lecturer at Seat of Wisdom Major Seminary Umuahia and the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Nigeria. Currently, he is a Certified Educator Candidate with the Department of Chaplaincy Services and Education, University of California Health, Davis, Sacramento.

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