As Jesus entered the room after his Resurrection his greeting was always "Peace be with you." And one of the Beatitudes is "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God." In contrast to that, in today's Gospel he says: "Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division." He added that to his statement: "I have come to set the earth on fire, and I wish it were already blazing." That sure doesn't seem to track with his greeting of, "Peace be with you." Does it? But we know that Jesus never told an untruth, so how can we reconcile this apparent contradiction? He as well speaks of his baptism but, he was already baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan. Talk about confusion.
Let's see if I can clear this up a little. First, following of Jesus does give us peace but being baptized into the Christian faith, as little Ava will be today, doesn't guarantee that life as a Christian is easy, in that it does require that we follow the will of God via following Jesus' teachings and we do that at a cost which can result in suffering and division. The same was true for Jesus' following the will of His Father. The image of baptism he uses refers to his initiation into the mission given to him by His Father. As we know that mission will cost him his very life. Our initiation into the Church via our Baptism, initiates each of us into the mission God has for us as disciples of Jesus will cost us just as it did his first followers, his first disciples. He prophesied the breakup of families resulting from His message, and in the case of his disciples, they were kicked out of the synagogue and cut off from family and old friends, from the comforting rituals institutions they had known. For each of us, as a follower of Christ, as His disciples, commit our selves to doing the will of God, each of us is required to decide what our priorities are. What Jesus calls us to, is to have God and doing his will as our top priority and have our family as second priority. This results in each of us standing for what is right, working for peace and justice as a higher aim than unity which in instances means to protest against wrongdoing. As a support of that, Jesuit Cardinal Avery Dulles in his book, "Models of the Church" he remarked, "Christianity is not healthy unless there is room for prophetic protest against abuses of authority."
The image of fire that Jesus speaks of is a spiritual fire, one that will consume and/or purify the world. Wouldn't it be great if the world had that type of fire, considering that fire is a purifying force, burning up that which is useless, refining what is impure and giving warmth and energy, leaving only that which is desirable. You and I are called as Christians, to have that kind of fire in our hearts to influence people to care, to serve and bless one another with all the gifts of faith. We are all called to evangelize, to have fire in our hearts. Remember the old saying, "He who is on fire cannot sit on a chair."
So it is your task and mine to live the words of St. Paul in our first reading: "Run the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith." Live the life the Lord has gifted us with while doing the will of God, that is, by being a living example of Jesus' teachings. When we do that we will see the tender love Jesus has for each of us even though he knows us intimately. The fact is that he is never looking down on us, never threatens us, never rejects us, is always willing to forgive us and always wanting each of us to be his disciple.
The life of discipleship, which we are called to as Christians, is not about success; it is about faithfulness and perseverance keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus and his unchanging message. It is then that we will experience peace, in spite of all that life brings to us both good and bad. "Peace be with you."