Scripture: Lectionary 476: Romans 6:19-23. Psalm 1:1-126.96.36.199. Luke
Our passage on the fire of judgment and the baptism with which Jesus will
be baptized is understood better by our rereading and meditating on the
passage that says: “This child is destined to be the downfall and the rise
of many in Israel, a sign that will be opposed—and you yourself shall be
pierced with a sword—so that the thoughts of many hearts may be laid
bare.” (Luke 2:34-35).
Then we meditate on the Scripture for the day which is a continuation of
the Journey Narrative where we learn how to become disciples of Jesus as
those did who followed him on the way up to Jerusalem where he would soon
die on the Cross just outside that holy city. We are united with Christ on
the way of the cross in this passage of crisis and division. Simeon had
predicted this in the Infancy Narrative now Luke relates is fulfillment in
what will happen during Jesus final visit to Jerusalem. We have as part of
our mission to enter into this judgment by fire (the Holy Spirit) who will
help us through the divisions and crises even felt within one’s family or
community. We will often face opposition by our adherence to the call of
discipleship and its critical demands upon us. Jesus himself is predicting
that this will happen to us perhaps spiritually or psychologically if not
bodily as the martyrs entered this fire of judgment. The Holy Spirit gave
them the courage and boldness to resist those who maltreated them; they
were willing to lay down their lives for Jesus and many of them did.
The first to be martyred were the Apostles just after the martyrdom of St.
Stephen. Yet, Jesus also predicted that salvation would come through his
own death: “And I – once lifted up from earth—will draw all to
myself.” (John 12:32).
Paul leads us to understand the mystery of Christ’s death through our faith
received by our being baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the
Holy Spirit. He will recall the descent into the water and the immersion
beneath it and then our rising out of the waters of baptism as the grace of
our baptism founded upon our faith and confirmed by our parents. We are
thus united with Christ in his suffering, death, and being raised up by the
All of the above is essential to our journeying with Jesus as his faithful
disciples. Jesus own death is our source of life after death. His own
death is called a “baptism” : “You do not know what you are asking. Can
you drink the cup I shall drink or be baptized in the same bath of pain as
I?” (Mark 10:38). We say, YES, as faithful disciples. And we adore Jesus
who by his Cross and Resurrection has redeemed us from the fiery judgment
of separation. Amen.