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.
"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 thrive on paradox. In Romans Paul speaks of being slaves of God; surely he does not imagine God as a slave-driver? We also feel the paradox between Jesus saying he has "not come to establish peace but division" and his assurance elsewhere that "Peace is my gift to you" (Jn 14:27). We must meditate quietly, to let the deeper harmony of the Scriptures appear to us.
Paul centers his teaching on 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 makes "slaves" of us, but it not a slavery of lost dignity or fear but a slavery that frees us from shame and fear. If we are swept beyond our control and want to risk everything for the sake of Christ, we feel a new level of love and 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 emotion, "How I wish the blaze were ignited!" He seems swept beyond his understanding, almost beyond his human tolerance and patience. The baptismal reference is clearly to his passion and death, particularly as Luke develops the direction of Jesus' ministry, as setting his face to go towards Jerusalem where he would meet his fate. But when the time came closer, he was plunged into agony in the garden of Gethsemane where he prayed, "Father, if it is your will, take this cup from me." In his anguish Jesus prayed with all the greater intensity, so that his sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground (Lk 22:42,44).
He has came to bring fire to the earth and wishes that it were already blazing. This is probably a reference to 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 pour out the Holy Spirit until he has undergone his passion and death, what he calls a "baptism that he must still receive." Knowing he will soon be plunged into this fiery ordeal, he declares that his distress is great until it is over.
Luke presents Jesus as desperately wanting to get this ordeal over, so that the fire of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God's love, can begin to blaze. This distress does not only touch Jesus. He declares that because of his mission families will be divided. Some members of a family will respond to the message of the gospel and some will reject it. The Lord's coming and presence touches the depths of the human heart in one way or another and that can leave people at odds with each other. Regardless of the consequences, however, our calling is to allow the fire that Jesus has brought to the earth to burn within us. We are to keep calling on the Holy Spirit to enkindle in us the fire of his love.