We have an unsettling Gospel today… Christ’s words are pretty scary. He tells us of a fire that is to come. He warns us that he comes to bring division, rather than peace. He speaks of families divided against each other. It doesn’t really sound like Good News, but these are words that we need to hear if we are to make sense of the Gospel and of the world around us.And from Fr. Mark of Vultus Christi:
It is a mistake to believe anyone who promises us a quick-fix, enlightenment without effort or pleasure without any strings attached. You’ll find that kind of promise easily enough...
...The Realism of Christ
Christ doesn’t do that. He’s realistic. He brings us the fire of the Holy Spirit to free us from our sins and to transform the unjust world around us, but doesn’t hide the fact that this liberation, this transformation isn’t always going to be an easy process. So great and so urgent was this work of salvation that He underwent the Cross to accomplish it. It should therefore be no surprise that our vocation as Christians, our attempt to welcome this salvation into our lives will lead to struggle and conflict – both with ourselves and with the world around us. Can we really claim to have received the fire of the Holy Spirit if we do not feel the need to struggle with our own sins? More
The Fire of the Holy Spirit
The desire of Our Lord Jesus Christ is to communicate the fire of the Holy Spirit; it is to extend the baptism of the Head to each of the members; it is to allow the living blaze of love to escape from His own Sacred Heart, to inflame the Church, to come to rest upon the heads of His disciples in tongues as of fire (cf. Ac 2:2). It is no mere coincidence that the Magnificat Antiphon of First Vespers of the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart is the very same one given for this Sunday’s First Vespers, “I came to cast fire upon the earth and would that it were already kindled” (Lk 12:49). It is no mere coincidence either that the Heart of Jesus is called a “burning furnace of love.”
The Two Baptisms
For Saint Luke, the entire earthly life of Our Lord unfolds between two baptisms: the first is Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan by John, and the second is the baptism of His passion and death. “I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished” (Lk 12:50). How like this cry of Jesus is the cry of Jeremiah, His prophet: “There is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it and I cannot” (Jer 20:0). In the passion and death of Jesus, the burning fire is no longer shut up. The cross and the pierced Heart are the beginning of Pentecost. The burning bush of Mount Horeb is fulfilled in the tree of the cross, all ablaze with the fire of the Holy Spirit. And we, like Moses removing his sandals before the burning bush, approach with bare feet the incandescent tree of the cross on Good Friday.
Fire From Heaven
Today, and so often as, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we celebrate the mystery of the cross, fire from heaven descends upon the altar, no longer in response to the prayer of Elijah, but in response now to the prayer of Christ: altar, victim and priest. We, of course, are free to approach the altar, carefully armed with every manner of protection, lest we be drawn into the flames and set all ablaze. We are free to measure our surrender to the flame of the Spirit, giving some of ourselves, and holding back the greater part, lest we lose ourselves in the conflagration of the cross. We are also free to cast ourselves into the fire, to be consumed like a grain of incense in the thurible. More