Saturday, May 18, 2013
"I Have Come to Set the Earth on Fire"
“I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” When words like fire, water, dirt, etc… are used in Sacred Scripture, there is always a deeper meaning behind them. What does Jesus mean by setting the earth on fire?
Fire can do many things. Fire can destroy. Fire can heat up elements. When we get near a scorching fire, we immediately feel its effects. We end up backing away, unless you are curious like a child.
Fire also has the capacity to purify. When a piece if iron is put into a burning furnace, the iron is heated up to a point where it can be molded and shaped. Without the fire, the iron remains cold and immovable.
And it is the same with us. Apply this analogy to how the Holy Spirit works in our lives. When we allow the Holy Spirit to take possession of our hearts, there are many imperfections that need to be purified. Countless times in Sacred Scripture the image of fire is used as purification. Purification from what?… The imperfections of our lives… Our sins, our weaknesses… The life of God within us and our own sinfulness cannot co-exist. One has to go… and hopefully by our cooperation and the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives, the purifying fire of the Spirit takes reign over our hearts.
The LORD desires that our hearts be on fire. In the Old Testament, the Scribes and Pharisees observed the Law, but without the love of God in their hearts. God the Son became flesh in order to show us the perfection of charity. A Pharisee asked Jesus, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Jesus Christ did not merely talk and teach about the great commandment of love of God and neighbor, but He gave us the supreme example and model for how to love.
What image do you think of in the Old Testament associated with fire? Maybe the LORD appearing to Moses in the form of a burning bush… a burning bush that was not consumed. If you would set a bush on fire, I guarantee that it would be consumed very quickly! The unconsumed burning bush teaches us about the fire of God’s Love. Christ came to reveal the His Father’s Love and to send the Holy Spirit among us to set our hearts on fire. The unconsumed burning bush points to what God desires to do in each of our hearts.
Throughout his Pontificate, Pope Benedict has used the imagery and expression that every Christian is called to have a personal Pentecost. The same Holy Spirit that descended upon the Apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Upper Room is the same Holy Spirit that we receive at Baptism… is strengthened at our Confirmation and is increased within us at every reception of Holy Communion.
Saying that we are called to experience a “personal Pentecost” personalizes to each one of us an event that happened 2000 years ago. God desires that your heart be set on fire with His Love… ultimately that you love as He loves. The Holy Spirit dwelling within us makes this possible.
The Year of Faith, which was inaugurated on Oct. 11th is an opportunity for each of us to do what the Pope is asking: to rediscover the precious gift of Faith—and in some cases to even discover for the first time the Faith that has been given as a pure gift. The Pope is inviting us to study the content of our Faith. It is not merely enough to be Catholic by name. We have to know what we believe and why we believe it. No more Cafeteria Catholism! The Cafeteria is now closed! If we do not know what we believe, how do we expect to fall in love with God? WE CANNOT LOVE WHAT WE DO NOT KNOW… If we do not know God, we cannot love Him. By studying and praying over what we believe as Catholic Christians, we will come to a greater knowledge of the God who has revealed Himself… and in turn fall more and more in love with the God who has made Himself known.
St. Catherine of Siena once said “if you are what you should be, you would set the whole world on fire.” If we would only let God accomplish what he desires to do through us. Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta once was asked by a reporter: “Mother, what do you see as the greatest obstacle to your work and furthering the work of the Missionaries of Charity?” She was quick to answer—“ME!” I am the greatest obstacle to God working through me. How true that statement is! We are our biggest obstacle in our life of Faith.—Not other people—or the events or circumstances in the world around us… BUT it is myself… that is preventing the Holy Spirit from working in and through me.
If only we would stop being an obstacle to God. If only we would get out of the way and let Him ignite our hearts with the fire of His Love. What good could be accomplished in the world if every Christian would pray for their own personal Pentecost.
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful anPrayer:d kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.
O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.
By Br. John Paul Mary
(Franciscan brother of the Franicscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word - founded by Mother Angelica, at EWTN)