18 August 2013


20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk 12:49-53 (Jer 38:4-6, 8-10 / Ps 40 / Heb 12:1-4)

Jesus presents to us a self-portrait that is billion of light years away from the image of Him we have grown familiar – even complacent – with.  As He claims that He came to set the earth on fire and that He meant to establish not peace but division among us, our “Hear of Jesus, meek and mild” Christ seems to crumble.  Are you not disturbed?

It is good that we are disturbed every now and then.  It does us well to be disturbed and constructively question our concept of God, of our selves, and of the world around us.  We need to be jolted from our too comfortable zones where we are in full control of almost all, if not all, including perhaps our definition of God.  Indeed, may we be disturbed.

We are disturbed, for Jesus declares, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!”

I am afraid of fire.  I am often simply too careful, even obsessively cautious, with fire.  One must never go any nearer any fire, lest, like the moth that disobeyed its mother, in that classic children story, he burns himself to death.  But today, even while we do not flirt with fire, fire is thrown right in front of us by no less than Jesus Himself.  Jesus disturbs us with fire.  He fires and He disturbs us.

Fire burns.  Fire destroys.  Fire consumes.  The fire of Jesus burns, destroys, and consumes whatever needs to die in us.  Do we not often pray, “Lord, make me a better person; make me a new person”?  But for the new “we” to be born, the old “we” must die.  When we want to build a bigger, better, and more beautiful house right where our present house stands, we must first tear down the old one.  God destroys.  O, yes, He does.

God destroys so that He may build again.  He burns so that He may create anew.  And God builds again, He creates anew, something more beautiful, something better, something greater.  What is it in us that the fire of Jesus must consume, melt away, and destroy?

Fire purifies.  Fire purifies that which it consumes.  That which passes through fire is the cleanest.  Food needs to be cooked.  Sterilization is purification, too, and nothing is sterilized without fire.

Fire destroys so that it may purify.  The fire of Jesus destroys not for destruction’s sake.  Jesus purifies us by destroying what makes us unclean.  What does the fire of Jesus need to purify in us?

Fire transforms that which it destroys and purifies.  Transformation is the end result of destruction and purification by fire.  Gold passes through fire and becomes a precious ring. Dough comes out from the oven as delicious bread.  Clay is cooked and becomes a beautiful earthen vessel.  Raw food on fire is made palatable and easy to digest.  So is it with anything and anyone touched by the fire of Jesus.

The fire of Jesus transforms us unto what God intends us to be.  Consumed by the fire of Jesus, we are transformed unto His image and likeness.  Do we really allow the fire of Jesus to transform us?

Fire destroys.  Fire purifies.  Fire transforms.  We are disturbed but we should not fear because the fire we speak of is the fire of Christ Jesus the Lord.

May the fire of Jesus set the world ablaze.  May the fire of Jesus ignite the earth.  May Jesus disturb us and transform us unto becoming more and more like Him.  And so we pray the prayer of Sir Francis Drake:

Disturb us, Lord, when

We are too pleased with ourselves,

When our dreams have come truer
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when

with the abundance of things we possess

We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,

To venture on wilder seas

Where storms will show Thy mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask Thee to push back

The horizons of our hopes;

And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

This we ask in the name of our Captain,

Who is Jesus Christ.


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