Dear Followers of Jesus,
We proclaim and listen to Luke 12:49-53 at Mass. In this text, Jesus does not like a feeble approach to his teachings. Instead of a fearful, even bashful acknowledgment of his healings and miracles, he desires fire within his disciples. He wants not only his followers, but also us to pursue the miracles and the music of his presence and magnificent touch to human concerns. He wants fire in water, a baptism that will set the world ablaze with hope, mercy and kindness. He wants the Kingdom to sprout from our fear, the hope of the Father to be made known in every action we make and in every syllable we speak.
I can’t say I blame him. His death was for us. His resurrection was for our eternal home in heaven. He deserves our complete attention to such mystery and the hope that a small piece of heaven will be here on earth when we reach out to people lost along the way or when we offer a sip of water to the faint of heart. A fire is not just smoke. We need true motivation from the fire we find within our hearts.
Our hearts are where the rubber meets the road. A fire within cannot be given from a pulpit or a confessional. A fire within cannot be roused from a helicopter parent or inherited from a grandfather’s estate. A fire within can only be fanned with the grace of God and the openness of God’s people. This fire is the warmth of love when we feel lost and alone. This fire is mercy when we know we deserve much less. This fire is hope when we are lost like the forgotten and lonely sheep of his day. Fire within takes prayer, courage and a new way of life. This is Luke’s challenge for us today. I am not sure many people will take heed or notice that the fire is for them. Most likely, many of us will remain frozen from fear and discouraged by life. We might even blame God for all the tragedy that remains caught in our hearts and consciences.
So Jesus wants fire. I think we should find out what that means. We cannot give what we don’t have. We cannot rouse in others what is dead in us. So the fire starter is the Holy Spirit. The flames that begin come from the debris that is stacked so neatly in our hearts, the debris of anger, rage, dis-appointment, and maybe even the old stacks of despair. Let’s do some fanning our selves; let’s shake things up and recognize that faith is about our relationship with the Divine so that we can bring the Divine to our dying world, our world in need of tenderness and relationship.
Does anyone have a match? Let’s make sure children are fed today and mothers have clean water to nourish their new-born. Let’s work together to welcome strangers and find a place for migrants to flourish in life as they flee the tortures of poverty. Let’s work for healthcare and just insurance for our elderly. Let’s set a blaze of hope for people who rebuild from the devastations of storms and floods. Let’s set a blaze on earth by learning how to pray more profoundly and to serve without cost. This is fire on earth.