Sunday, August 14th, 2022 – Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle C Readings: Jeremiah 38, 4-6. 8-10, Psalm 40 “Lord, come to my aid!”, Hebrews 12:1-4, Luke 12:49-53
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in the gospel reading Jesus tells us that “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” What did Jesus mean by fire? Fire is used in the Bible in many ways. Fire is used as a sign of purification- the prophet Isaiah recounts that “Then one of the seraphim flew to me, holding an ember which he had taken with tongs from the altar. He touched my mouth with it. “See,’ he said, 'now that this has touched your lips.' Your wickedness is removed, your sin purged” (Isaiah 6:6-7). Fire also signifies God's presence and love. We can remember the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples like tongues of fire, showing them God's power and giving them the courage to go and bear witness to the gospel. Fire represents God's judgement on sinful people. We can recall the story of Sodom and Gomorrah whom God punished with fire.
Jesus was so filled with his experience of the Kingdom of God, that his heart was on fire to invite all people to experience the presence of God's love in their life. It called for purification from every burden and sin that clings to us. An invitation to experience the love of God and bring to people's notice the consequences of sins. “The wage of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life” (Romans 6:23).
When we are filled with that fire, we cannot but allow ourselves to be instruments of God's love, mercy and compassion in the world. Yes, it will come with some struggles. Jesus says, “a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father," It will also invite hatred, a feeling of abandonment and loneliness. Times when we will even question if we are doing the will of God, because we will go through the experience of the absence of God. But these challenges and struggles should encourage us to persevere. The second reading exhorts us that: "in your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood”. Consider what Christ went through to save us. He was mocked, beaten, spat upon, imprisoned, wrongly treated, and crucified like a criminal but he remained faithful.
We are called to be faithful to the mission that God has entrusted to us, no matter how small, big, or challenging it might be. Let us never forget that it takes only a tiny spark to ignite a forest fire. Jesus tells us in today’s gospel that “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” May the Lord grant us an experience of that fire so that we can be true witnesses to the glory of his holy name.
In the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Fr. Paschal Chester, SVD