Dear Parish Family,
Having reminded the apostles and the crowd that facing the coming judgment takes patience, Jesus now goes on to speak of how difficult it will be for us to wait. He tells them that he has come to set the earth on fire. Fire is an image commonly used by St. Luke. Back in chapter 3 of Luke’s gospel, John the Baptist says to those who come to him for baptism, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming… He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3: 16). It is also St. Luke in the Acts of the Apostles who describes the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles with tongues as of fire (Acts 2: 1-3).
Fire is of common use for all cultures at any given time. A benefit of fire is to warm places and people on chilly days. It also has the power to transform, to destroy or consume that which is on fire. The tongues of fire on the day of Pentecost was a visible presence of the Holy Spirit in that unique moment for the apostles. It was a transformative fire. That fire filled the apostles with divine knowledge. They were able to speak in different languages and therefore to proclaim God’s message to all.
The meaning of fire in today’s gospel is a fire which consumes and destroys. Jesus came to set the world on fire through his passion, death and resurrection. Jesus’ fire destroys death and sin and re-establishes for us the gifts of forgiveness and eternal life. In the sacrament of Confession we receive a purifying fire which wipes away our sins and brings us back to grace. We are not used to hearing these difficult words from Jesus. His words in today’s gospel nonetheless state the truth. It is necessary for us to be reminded that living nowadays according to Jesus’ teaching is not easy and will bring about conflicts; sometimes internal conflict in our own self and other times social conflicts with those who strongly rejects the Christian values. Today’s gospel is an invitation to be always prepared.
God bless you all.
Rev. Johnson Lopez
Father Lopez is Pastor of Saint Patrick Catholic Church in Rochelle, IL.