Through the Fire

14 August 2022, 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Lk 12: 49-53

There are four elements of matter:  earth, water, air and fire.  Among the four, I think, what we are most afraid of is fire.  If there’s fire, there is change.  Everything that goes through fire will be cooked, if not, it will turn into ashes.

But what is this fire that Jesus is pointing to in today’s Gospel?  Looking at the words that our Lord has said, we can see in Him so full of passion for the mission.  We know of many people who have contributed significant changes not only because they have the intelligence and skills but because they are passion-driven.  No matter how difficult situations were, even if they had difficult people around them, but they were able to effect significant changes in their countries and in the world because they stood for truth and justice, mercy and forgiveness, love and peace.  Look at Mahatma Gandhi, Viktor Frankl, Jose Rizal and Maximilian Kolbe.  And so, the fire that Jesus brings is not just a fire that brings punishment; it is the Holy Spirit who constantly renews the world from within. 

What are the implications of being afired by the Holy Spirit? Jesus never sugarcoats missionary discipleship.  If we are afired by the Holy Spirit for upholding truth, justice and peace, we will suffer the same fate like Jesus and the prophet in the 1st Reading, Jeremiah.  Because we are so on fire for the values of God’s reign, many would also react. Their anger, hatred and indifference are like fire that would consume them to think of many ways to put us to extinction.  For sure, we never experienced being thrown into a deep, muddy and dirty cistern to die for hunger and thirst, but the experiences of being rejected, not being listened to, of being silenced and of being the subject matter of falsehood to destroy our reputation are the modern-day persecution.  But aside from persecution, many would label us as the cause of division, no matter how good our intentions are. 

What consolation can we gain out of this many “konsomisyon”?  Our Response in every verse of the Psalm is worth pondering, “Lord, come to my aid!”  We can only call on the name of the Lord to strengthen us, to console us and above, to accompany us.  When I was a young catechist, I sough help from my Spiritual Director.  I was asking enlightenment because I experienced what most of our catechists experience:  desolation due to lack of support.  Fr Picard asked me, “Erwin, how do you know that God is so close with you?” I replied, “Maybe, God is close to me when I pray.”  Fr Picard said, “You’re right.  But He is closest to you when there are crosses.”  Then he moved further, “For us Catholics, our cross is never Christ-less and Christ is never cross-less.  The cross and Christ Jesus are always together.”

We love to wear crosses with different designs but I hope that we dare to carry our crosses when they come.  Our sufferings do not come without any purpose at all.  Sufferings can make us humble and make us more human.  Sufferings can purify our intentions and our motivations.  Sufferings can cultivate in us values and virtues.  When we see sufferings as opportunities to endure, to persevere and to be more patient, we do not only experience what the author of the letter to the Hebrews had envisioned, “a cloud of witnesses”, but we are looking at Jesus, being joined with Jesus and we are becoming like Jesus who endured hostility because of His great love for us.  Jesus who never gave up is encouraging us not to grow weary and lose heart. 

How can we endure in the midst of persecution, of rejection and of tribulation?

First, set your eyes on the Lord.  Focus on Lord.  His life is something that we can follow.  Let our mind and heart, body and soul, all our energies and gifts be for Him.  Such passion comes from the Holy Spirit.  If we are one with Him when we suffer, we will be one with Him in glory. 

Second, pray for those who persecute us.  This can be difficult because out hearts could be full of anger, of bitterness and of pride.  But we are Christians.  Like Jesus, we will love our enemies by praying for our persecutors.  We cannot change them.  But God can change them. For in His time is our peace.

Third, continue living the values that manifest the reign of God even in little ways.  We are not called to succeed in our causes and advocacies.  But the Lord promises us to be with us (Emmanuel).  Let our small deeds of kindness and love create ripples that can change the world. 

Earth, water, air and fire.  These are the elements of matter.  These are the elements that matter.  And so, we are.  If Jesus came to bring fire, St Catherine of Siena said something that echo today’s readings, “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”  Amen!

Disclaimer: This section of the website is a personal creative writing of the author and does not necessarily reflect the official views, opinion, or policies of the Salesians of Don Bosco – Philippines South Province. For concerns on the content, style, and grammar of this piece, please contact us.

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