“I have come to set the earth on fire!” (Lk 12:49)
This rather mysterious phrase of Jesus‘ contrasts with others, such as “Peace I leave you, my peace I give you.” Perhaps our Lord recalls the words of the prophet Jeremiah: “Within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.” (Jer 20:9) This is a passionate outburst from Jesus’ heart that reveals his firm desire to fulfill his Father’s will and plan of redemption that inspired his entire earthly ministry with a sense of urgency.
The fire that according to the Gospel our Lord has come to set the world on is the fire of divine love that will reach all humanity. From the cross, his baptism began to burn with intensity, but not everyone would let themselves be embraced by the absolute and unconditional demand of this fire. So Christ’s love, which would lead humanity to unity and peace, divides it, not because of Christ but because of human resistance. Christ’s peace does not mean absence of difficulties in our lives or being indifferent to the reality of the world. Christ’s peace is the opposite of a false worldly peace, and it is contrary to the attitude led by false presumptions that “we cannot change things,” thus nothing is worth fighting for. Our Lord invites us to live with pure passion and devouring fire, because on the day of our baptism, we received the power of the Holy Spirit and became prophets. Therefore, if we live our prophetic vocation with passion, embracing Jesus’ fire, we will gain peace and we also will encounter difficulties in our journey, but we must trust that our words and deeds will effect change in the world. Distrust, struggles and misunderstanding marked the lives of every martyr, thus we ought not to be concerned if we also experience struggles by following Christ. By being lukewarm in the faith, we will not gain true peace, because Christ and his Gospel are not negotiable. By avoiding conflict, accepting false teachings or doctrines that are contrary to the Gospel sooner or later ends up leading us to a denial of Christ, thus peace born by tolerating evil is not the peace of Christ.
God offers us his unconditional love, mercy and salvation and his never-ending desire that we accept and respond with joy and love to these beautiful gifts. Even though our Father offers us these gifts freely and generously, not everyone is willing to receive them, and thus divisions will occur even within families. However, as disciples of Christ, we must not only keep strengthening our faith and living it with intensity, profess it with boldness and confidently bear witness to it, but also spread it with fervent ardor in the midst of our daily lives.
So let us rekindle the burning fire of our baptism and light up the earth with the fire of Christ that we carry in your hearts.
Deacon De Risio serves at Church of the Assumption and Church of the Resurrection in Fairport.