“I came to cast fire on the earth; to bring division. Households will be divided. This is the Gospel of the Lord.” This is the “Gospel” of the Lord? How is this good news? This Gospel text is not one you find on many refrigerator doors or greeting cards.
This is one of those Gospels that makes you shake your head and wonder “What’s going on?” The Jesus we meet here does not seems to fit “our” image of Jesus who is kind and gentle, slow to anger, and merciful.
The doomsday predictors of our time read these words with excitement and a sense of “Bring it on Lord, charcoal broil this miserable, wretched, sinful world.” But people who are on fire with the Spirit, hear these words of Jesus, not as words of disturbing destruction; but rather as words of passionate desire that serve the ministry of the Gospel.
Jesus knew that when that day of Pentecost came people would be transformed and they would be filled with spiritual boldness that would cause great turmoil to an unbelieving world.
For those of us who live in the post Pentecost, Jesus continues to cast the Spirit of fire to the earththrough our participation in the liturgy.
During the Liturgy of the Word the Scriptures are proclaimed with the fire of the Holy Spirit. This fire can serve three purposes.
First, the words of Scripture are cleansing. The Liturgy of the Word makes us aware of our sinfulness and leads us to seek reconciliation.
Secondly, in the Liturgy of the Word, Christ ignites the fires of passion and zeal within our hearts, creating within us the willingness to serve, and making it possible for us to say “Here am I! Send me.”
And finally, more reflective of today’s Gospel, the Liturgy of the Word ignites a fire of division and opposition. While some embrace God’s words as a promise of salvation, forgiveness and eternal life, there are those who refuse to turn to Jesus, the word offends and angers them, with division resulting.
If the Liturgy of the Word ignites the fire of faith within us, then the Liturgy of the Eucharist serves as the container to hold that fire. In holy Communion, Jesus molds us into his very body. The Liturgy of the Eucharist transforms all that is rude, uncharitable and argumentative. The Eucharist makes us strong in the faith and unwilling to compromise the teachings of the church.
In my parish, one liturgy each Sunday is videotaped for replay on our Facebook site. When I am in the control room I have a “camera- eye view” of the assembly. From my vantage point I see what father sees, in any given church in our diocese on a Sunday morning; good and faithful people who still remain unaware of the transforming power of liturgy. We are there, but easily distracted by reading the bulletin, verbal exchanges with a pew mate or the need for a short homiletic nap. Perhaps what is needed is an occasional “fire” shouted out by the priest. At least that would wake us from liturgical indifference.
This weekend, challenge ourselves to be present and attentive to the Liturgy of the Word that our hearts may be set on fire. Let us approach the Eucharist with such awe and firm desire to be molded in the fiery passion of Jesus and his mission.
Zahorik is pastoral associate at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish, Oshkosh.