If I may speak in human terms because of your natural limitations, just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.
When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Happy indeed is the man
who follows not the counsel of the wicked;
nor lingers in the way of sinners
nor sits in the company of scorners,
but whose delight is the law of the Lord
and who ponders his law day and night. (R./)
He is like a tree planted beside the flowing waters,
that yields its fruit in due season
and whose leaves shall never fade;
and all that he does shall prosper. (R./)
Not so are the wicked, not so!
For they like winnowed chaff shall be driven away by the wind.
For the Lord guards the way of the just
but the way of the wicked leads to doom. (R./)
Jesus said to his disciples,
"I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No,I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."
Today's readings are rich in paradox. In Romans Paul speaks of being servants or slaves of God; surely he does not imagine God as a slave-driver? There's a sharp paradox between the idea of Jesus having come "not to establish peace but division" and his comforting assurance "my peace I give to you" (Jn 14:27). We must meditate quietly, to let the deeper harmonies of the holy Scriptures appear to us.
Paul affirms God's love for us, a love that goes beyond all logic. We can hardly explain fully to other people's satisfaction or even our own, why we love someone. In a sense, love enslaves us, but it not a slavery that robs us of human dignity but a slavery that paradoxically frees us from shame and fear. If we are swept up by love and want to risk everything for the sake of Christ, we experience a new kind of integrity.
In the gospel Jesus is enslaved by love to the Father's holy will. His words express a strong sense of desire, "How I wish it were blazing already!" He seems swept beyond himself in his desire to do whatever the Father wants. The baptism with which he is to be baptized refers to his passion and death, particularly as Luke describes Jesus as setting his face to go to Jerusalem, where he would meet his fate. As the time came closer, he struggled in the garden of Gethsemane and prayed, "Father, if it is your will, take this cup from me." But such was his total self-giving that he then said, "Not my will but yours be done."
Jesus came to bring fire to the earth and wishes that it were already blazing. This prefigures the fire of the Holy Spirit; at the beginning of the Acts, Luke describes the Holy Spirit coming down on the disciples like tongues of fire. But Jesus knows he cannot send the Holy Spirit until he has undergone his passion and death, what he calls a "baptism I must receive." Knowing he will soon suffer this ordeal, he admits that his distress is great until it is over.
He desperately wanted to get through his ordeal, so that the fire of the Holy Spirit could begin to blaze. This ordeal will be shared by his disciples also. Because of sharing in the mission of Jesus some families will be divided. Some family members will welcome the gospel and some will reject it. The Lord's coming and presence touches the depths of our humanity in ways that can cause deep divisions. Regardless of the consequences, our vocation is to let the fire that Jesus has ignited burn within us. We trust in the Holy Spirit to enkindle in us the fire of his love.