13TH AUGUST 2022
EAGERNESS AND ENTHUSIASM AS VITAL COMPONENTS OF FAITH
In today's Gospel reading Jesus says, " I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled. I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how I am constrained until it is accomplished; I did not come to bring peace but division."
These are not easy, sweet and gentle words from Jesus instead they are harsh, more than threatening and rather uncomfortable to hear. By and large, we avoid conflict and division in our families and in our congregations at all costs, we prefer calmness yet just now Jesus says that it is not what he came to do.
As we read this Gospel passage we should know that it is in the context of Jesus being on his way to Jerusalem where the conflicts he has been experiencing will boil over into a plot to take his life.
Some of the conflicts he has been experiencing include: being accused of forgiving sins, healing during Sabbath, being told he casts out demons by the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons and accusing the Pharisees and the teachers of the law of hypocrisy.
Based on these conflicts, Jesus knows that he will soon be baptized not by water but by the fire kindled with nails and wood, a baptism of blood and he says he want it to be already kindled, he says he feels constrained until it is accomplished. What can we call this attitude of Jesus? We can call it eagerness or enthusiasm.
Enthusiasm refers to the ability to show a keen interest in a subject or an activity as well as a readiness to get involved in it. It is one step above a mere interest. Enthusiastic people are people who have a strong feeling of eagerness to do something. Until they see that dream or task fulfilled, they will not settle down.
They possess an intrinsic motivation that spurs them on. Enthusiasm is an important aspect of faith because it makes you see and understand faith from a different than normal perspective and put that faith into action. What Jesus talks about is very difficult in normal circumstances but are possible because of enthusiasm without which, all these things he is talking about will be harder to do.
By being too eager or enthusiastic to cast fire upon the earth and wanting it to be already kindled and by wanting his baptism to be accomplished, Jesus is following a path less chosen by many because who would really be eager and enthusiastic to follow a path that leads to pain?
In the normal sense of life, there are many different paths or ways that one can follow and in the biblical sense, a path does not connote a physical way that enables you to move from point A to B but it indicates the choices one makes in life under the prompting of God through the power of the Holy Spirit.
For example, in Luke 18:35-43, a blind beggar, after being healed by Jesus decides to follow him on the road. It is not just a physical road but Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem to suffer and die meaning that the beggar after pondering has gained a full vision about the identity and mission of Jesus and courageously follows him in this endeavour.
It is this endeavour as a way of life that Jesus is too eager and enthusiastic to accomplish because he understands it clearly. Jesus is eager to have people embrace his message, a message that has the purifying fire that he bears. The kingdom of God he proclaims represents a new order governed not by might but by forgiveness, not by fear but by courage, not by indifference but by concern, not by power but by humility, not by discrimination but by acceptance.
Those invested in the present order, those lured by the temptations of accumulating things, status and power will resist this coming kingdom for it spells an end to what they know and love hence Jesus though coming to establish a rule of peace, brings division, even to the most intimate and honoured of relationships that include our families.
From this we see that every good thing starts with a desire or eagerness to do it and enthusiasm is infectious and makes you open to new experience and do away with hesitation and to be specific.
The eagerness and enthusiasm of Jesus reveals his passion for the people he came to teach, to heal and die to save. He burned then and still burns today with passion to see us alive and on fire for his sake and for the sake of others and not our own sake only.
Why does Jesus follow through with this message and vision? Why endure the pain and stress and suffering that such a baptism entails.
Because that is how glorious and needful the vision of the kingdom with which he has been blessed and burdened is.
What are you so eager and enthusiastic to accomplish in your life of faith and generally in life such that you can't settle until it happens? How does that eagerness spur you into actions of faith? Are there any barriers?