August 14, 2022


Reflection for the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

Luke 12:49-56; Hebrews 11:29-12:2; August 14, 2022

By: The Rev. Vicky Esguerra
Retired Priest, Diocese of Greater Manila Area


Both the Jewish and Chinese cultures agree with science that life is made up of four basic elements: water, fire, air, and earth.  Water is the life-flowing liquid; fire is the light, heat, or energy; air is the wind force or the breath that sustains life; and earth or ground (dust) or carbon matter to which the first three adhere to make up the life-form.  The Bible is full of analogies on the ways God communicates to His people through the use of these elements. Jesus explains His roles as: “I am the Living Water” (Rev. 22:17); “I am the Light of the World” (John 8:12); “I am the Breath of Life” (Genesis 2:7); and “I am the Bread of Life” (John 6:5).   

The analogies for these elements are understandable during Jesus’s and in our own time.  God can be viewed to be kind and merciful when these elements are given in small doses, e.g., water to quench thirst and to give life to the body; fire to light the world at night (Exodus journey in the wilderness); air to give life to all types of creatures; and earth which is the source of food (bread) in a symbiotic process between humans, animals, and plants. However, when given or taken in huge or gigantic doses or volumes, these elements produce disastrous consequences on all forms of creations.  Perceived as punishments from God, the following are examples, such as: the cosmic deluge (flooded earth) during Noah’s time (Genesis 6-8), the fire of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19), the tornadoes/typhoons(tempests), the earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. In the theophanies (God’s manifestations), the Lord is hence perceived to be either a God of love or a God of justice (punishment) depending on the extent of the people’s sinfulness.


Among the four elements, the fire is metaphorically used the most in various ways as either a non-consuming fire or a consuming fire. Atop Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:18) Moses felt the presence of God who appeared as a non-consuming fire in the “Burning Bush” when He presented to Moses the two tablets containing the Ten Commandments.  As a consuming fire, however, it was a symbol of destruction (punishment) associated with the wrath of God in the fire that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:1-11).  On the other hand, the fire used to purge or purify sinners of their transgressions is also known as “the baptism of fire” by the Holy Spirit; consuming (washing away) the sinful impurities but also at the same time non-consuming by instilling the steadfast faith in the believers.

The Jewish faithful were purified and strengthened through their trials (Hebrews 11:29-12:2): in the crossing of the Red Sea when pursued by the Egyptians; during the fall of Jericho; in the steadfastness of faith of Rahab the prostitute, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and other prophets; and in the unknown countless believers who suffered during the Roman persecutions. The fiery trials indicated the strong presence (passion/fire) of the Holy Spirit which purified their faith and strengthened their endurance at these most harrowing times. However, those who faltered in their faith met their difficult and untimely demise.


In the passage from the Lukan Gospel (12:49-56), Jesus is portrayed not as a peacemaker but rather as a fire causing divisions and conflicts. In the baptismal covenant or commandment to spread the Gospel, baptized persons will encounter fire “in whom to preach to” due to conflicts of beliefs and ideologies. People will be called to vocation to follow Christ -- to become priests, pastors, prophets, preachers/evangelists, healers, etc. His convicting power will promote discord as one answers the Call, thus sowing disharmony among and between the household members: “father against son and son against father; mother against daughter and daughter against mother; mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

Discord is sown as one chooses a life of obedience to Christ as answer to ministry - thus renouncing mundane goals in favor of a more sacrificial life for the needy; in giving up the joys of family life for the more ascetic Christ-centered life; in carrying small personal crosses in order to follow the huge Cross of Christ.  Hence, one must now take the road less traveled; abandon the familiar life with relatives, friends, and relations; and become woven into the integral part of the tapestry of God’s plan for salvation.  As one renounces personal plans, one is absorbed into a much bigger scheme towards a life of abundance for all on earth, and, eventually in God’s time (Kairos), in the fellowship of believers in God’s Kingdom.


Prophet Isaiah (Chp. 66:15-16) speaks about the End Time (Judgement Day): “For the Lord will come in fire, and His chariots like the whirlwind, to pay back His anger in fury, and His rebukes in flames of fire. For by fire will the Lord execute judgement, and by His sword, on all flesh; and those slain by the Lord shall be many.”

The Gospel of Matthew describes judgement this way: “the wheat will be separated from the chaff, and the chaff will be burned by fire” (Mt. 3:12). In the purifying judgement of believers (1 Cor 3:12-15), Jesus Christ will return to judge the earth (2 Th.  1:8).  Those who will suffer severely are those who failed to minister to the needy (Mt. 25:41-46).  The Book of Revelation explains that those who followed the antichrist “will be tormented with fire and brimstone” (Rev. 14:10). The dead will rise and “be judged according to their works as recorded in the book of life.” “Anyone whose name is not found in the book of life will be thrown into the lake of fire (second death).” (Rev. 20:12-15). “Satan will be thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur” … “and will be tormented day and night forever.” (Rev. 20:10).


The Bible shows that “Fire is God’s servant and His word is like fire.”  In today’s words of Jesus to Vassula Ryden, Greek lady recipient of True Life in God messages, He explains that “the world will be destroyed by fire” as manifestations of human sinfulness (conflagrations from human origins such as wars between nations and climate change.)  The end of the world will be a consuming fire destroying all creations on earth, but those who will be condemned in the lake of fire will suffer a non-consuming fire burning forever – with their dead bodies whose worms shall not die, their fire not quenched, and shall become an abhorrence to all flesh (Isaiah 66:24).  

However, for the chosen blessed ones of God, they will not die in the eternal fire, as the Lord promises, “For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, says the Lord; so shall your descendants and your name remain.  From new moon to new moon, and from sabbath to sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship me, says the Lord.”(Isaiah 66:22-23)



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