Wednesday, October 19, 2016

"I HAVE COME TO SET THE EARTH ON FIRE."


Homily for Oct. 20th, 2016: Luke 12:49-53.

AI have come to set fire to the earth,@ Jesus says, Aand how I wish it were already kindled.@ That fire was kindled on the first Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came down on Jesus’ friends in “tongues as of fire” (Acts 2:3). And that fire is still burning. That we are Catholic Christians in a continent undreamed of by anyone in Jerusalem then is proof that the fire kindled then was not lit in vain.

It is our task to pass on the flame to others, so that they may catch a spark from the fire of God=s love burning within us. Christianity, it has been said, cannot be taught. It must be caught. As fire burns it gives light. We are called to be prisms or lenses of God=s light, so that it may shine in a dark world. The inner quality of our lives is determining, right now, the brightness, or the darkness, of that part of the world in which God=s providence has placed us. St. Paul tells us what this means in characteristically memorable words. AShow yourselves guileless and above reproach, faultless children of God in a warped and crooked generation, in which you shine like stars in a dark world, and proffer the word of life.@ (Phil. 2:12-16)  

What is this word of life we have to proclaim? It is very simple, really. We are to proclaim, at all times by the quality of our lives, and when necessary by words, that God is C that he is real. That he is a God of love, who loves each one of us as if, in the whole universe, there were only one person to love; and that he looks for our loving response to his love. And we are called to be witnesses to the existence of a world beyond this one: the unseen, spiritual but utterly real world of God, of the angels, of the saints; the dwelling place of our beloved dead C our true homeland, as Paul reminds when he writes, Awe have our citizenship in heaven@ (Phil 3:20).    

Does any of that come through in your life? Is the Spirit=s fire burning in your heart? If you were arrested tonight for being a Catholic Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? And if mere physical presence at Mass were not enough for conviction, would there be enough evidence then?

We come here that the Spirit’s fire may be rekindled if it has burned low within us. Listen then to an ancient prayer of the Church for the rekindling of this fire.

Come down, O love divine, seek thou this soul of mine,

and visit it with thine own ardor glowing;

O Comforter, draw near, within my heart appear,

and kindle it thy holy flame bestowing.

 

O let it freely burn, till earthly passions turn

to dust and ashes in its heat consuming;

and let thy glorious light shine ever on my sight,

and clothe me round, the while my path illuming.

 

Let holy charity my outward vesture be,

and lowliness become my inner clothing;

true lowliness of heart, which takes the humbler part,

and o=er its own shortcoming weeps with loathing.

 

And so the yearning strong, with which the soul will long.

Will far outpass the power of human telling;

for none can guess its grace, till he become the place

wherein the Holy Spirit makes his dwelling.

 

(Bianco da Siena, d.1434; translated by R.F.Littledale, d. 1890)