Dear Friends in Jesus Christ,
Jesus said, “I bring fire and I have to receive a Baptism.” What is he talking about? What is the fire? What is the baptism? The fire is the love of Jesus. The love of Christ leads us to commitments. Commitment to Christ means taking a stand on certain things. And sometimes that stand sets us in opposition to other people. Sometimes our commitments to Jesus will cause us to be persecuted as the Prophet Jeremiah was in the First Reading. The Prophet Jeremiah was the mouth piece of God. He spoke to the people and the kings what God wanted him to speak. He warned them of their unfaithfulness, mistake and crimes. He prophesied about the forth coming destruction and punishment. The people did not like accusations and the corrections so they plotted against him saying “Jeremiah ought to be put to death; he is demoralizing the soldiers who are left in this city, and all the people, by speaking such things to them; he is not interested in the welfare of our people, but in their ruin.” Then they threw him into a cistern, where he sank into mud. “Sometimes our commitment to Jesus causes us to struggle”, as Saint Paul says in the Second Reading. He asked us to “Rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.” And he asked us to look at Jesus’ suffering saying “Consider how he endured such opposition from sinners, in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart.” Sometimes the commitment to Jesus causes us to oppose our own family as Jesus speaks in the Gospel. This is what happened to the early Christian community; the Romans hated them and their families were torn apart. Once a son became a Christian, he could no longer join the others in pagan worship. He could no longer join others in gladiatorial games. He could no longer join others in encouraging his sister to let her crippled baby die. Over and over the Christians had to decide their faith over their culture. When they chose their faith and Christ, their families were divided.
But the question that we have to ask to ourselves today is this, do we have the fire of Christ in us? If we have the fire of Christ in us we will surely have the baptism of suffering. We can think of many people who had fire in them to do good and they had to undergo a baptism of suffering as a result. For example think of the ways in which these people who received the Nobel Peace Prize suffered: Nelson Mandela imprisoned. Think of Pope John Paul II whose fire is standing up for the right to life of the unborn. Think of the fire in parents to do their best for their families. Think of the fire in parents with children on drugs to make sure that the problem is solved. Think of the fire in parents whose child was abused to make sure that it doesn’t happen to any more children.
I am sure we all have some fire in us to do something good for those around us. Maybe some of us have fire to do something more than normal, but are afraid of the baptism or afraid of the division it might cause and so the fire doesn’t come to anything. If you have fire in you and haven’t yet done anything with it, think of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was murdered on the altar as he was celebrating the Holy Mass. He had the fire of Christ in him so he stood for the people of El Salvador. Think of the 86 year old priest, Fr. Jacques Hamel, whose throat was slashed on the altar by ISIS in Normandy, France. Think of Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil, the Indian Catholic priest who was kidnapped and still under the custody of ISIS. Think of the many thousands of men and women trying in many different ways to make other people’s life better.
Let us pray at this Eucharist that Jesus may once again enlighten us and increase the fire of love in us for him and for our neighbor.
God Bless You,