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I was reading a short essay in the Word on Fire Gospel Reflections on Luke 12:49-53 where in Luke 12:49 Jesus says that He came to set fire to the world. In the essay Bishop Barron says that Jesus' priesthood is shown as a "spreader of the sacred fire". This reminded me of something I thought was an Old Testament passage, but on reflection it was just a line from the Lord of the Rings - probably only the movie, not the book.

Is the notion of a priest as a spreader and/or keeper of the sacred fire based on something to do with Old Testament typology or is it just a general notion of a priest throughout pagan/human history?

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  • Like the idea of this post, but it needs more clarity!
    – Ken Graham
    Dec 4, 2023 at 14:12
  • @KenGraham I tightened up the post a bit, until this morning, I'd never thought or heard about that being one of the roles of a priest, I though mostly about the one who offers sacrifices, but reading a different book (of obvious fiction) like Clan of the Cave Bear, makes you think a little about the ancient origins of priesthood via shamanism. I'm not a person who thinks that pagan things are necessarily bad things, just human needs put there by God who find their fulfillment in Jesus. I think that's orthodox enough, do you think I need to narrow down to Catholicism?
    – Peter Turner
    Dec 4, 2023 at 14:33
  • I tried to find the essay you mentioned, but all I could find is this Gospel Reflections. If that is not the reference, feel free to roll my edit back. BUT if that's the reference, I think you misread Bishop Barron. "spreading the fire" here means spreading the Holy Spirit love which comes down to the Church like tongues of fire on the first Pentecost. Dec 4, 2023 at 18:43

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I tried to find the essay you mentioned, but all I could find is this Gospel Reflections on Luke 12:49-53. If that is not the reference, feel free to roll my edit back and provide the right link, and then I have to revise this answer, which is based on Bishop Barron's Oct 26, 2023 Gospel Reflection.


I think you misread Bishop Barron. "spreading the fire" here means spreading the Holy Spirit love which comes down to the Church like tongues of fire on the first Pentecost. Because true love is based on Truth, those who don't believe Jesus (the Truth) will separate from us (because they cannot handle the Truth, though not in Tom Cruise vs. Jack Nicholson's sense), thus the division Jesus talked about in vv. 51-53.

Christ while on earth already has the fullness of the fire of the Holy Spirit (divine life) in Him (John 1:14). So Jesus could say in Luke 12:49a "I came to bring fire on the earth". But the Holy Spirit has not yet been given to the church, hence Luke 12:49b: "how I wish it were already set ablaze".

As priest, Jesus mediated the most holy love to humanity through His 3 year ministry of love. Bishop Barron wants to remind us that every baptized believer also has the inner fire of love by virtue of the Holy Spirit inside us. In addition (this is my opinion, not in Bishop Barron's reflection), we have the responsibility to welcome and let the Holy Spirit inflames our soul so our love can be stronger to approach the strength of Jesus's "fire", so in a sense we are also "keeper of fire" so it doesn't die (Bishop Barron didn't use the word "keeper"). But all believers are also called to be priest who needs to mediate our own inner fire to the world, hence "spreading the fire" of love.

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  • Oh cool - I didn't know that he "cross-posted" those on the website, I read it in the first volume of the Word on Fire Bible, which is just the four Gospels.
    – Peter Turner
    Dec 4, 2023 at 20:08
  • @PeterTurner I see. In the entry of the book version, is there more than what's on the website? If so, I'll update the reference in the OP. Dec 4, 2023 at 20:16
  • it covers all the bases, if there was anything different in the book it wasn't the important thing (spreader of the sacred fire).
    – Peter Turner
    Dec 4, 2023 at 20:40

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