July 13, 2011 - Wednesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Today's Readings

The burning bush is such a beautiful image of our Lord. When he chose to reveal himself to Moses, he did not appear as any animal or like a human being. There had to be no mistaking him for any of the gods of Egypt. He had not appeared to Abraham, who only heard a voice. He did send three angels to Abraham in the form of three men, but this was only after decades of preparation. Here he begins with Moses as an image.

Of course the image is a good one, since God chose it, but why is it such a perfect image? First of all, God is fire. He is energy. Nothing on earth is as powerful as fire, so God shows us his power by speaking out of fire. Yet fire is not a thing, properly speaking, it is the visual result of the process of rapid oxidation. To see fire is not to see something but rather to see something happening. So too, we cannot see God, but we can see him working in the world.

Furthermore, he burns us but he does not consume us. The Holy Spirit fills our soul but does not destroy it. Slowly, if we let him, he will burn away all that is insufficient in our soul, but what was good at the beginning will remain at the end, purified by fire. God is here a paradox: a gentle fire. Gentle, not because he will hold back from fiercely destroying sin where he finds it, but because he is always in complete control; our skin is not even burned.

Jesus told us that he came to set the world on fire. “How I wish it were already burning!” he exclaims. We have no reason to fear this fire. It is the same fire that burned the bush without consuming it. On the contrary, we must welcome this fire. The fire was kindled in us at our Baptism. Oil was poured on it at our Confirmation. Every Mass we receive the Eucharist as if it were flaming coals.

So much fire! If we were not damp, we would already be in flames. As it is, we are only smoking slightly at best. This fire cannot be stopped by water or wind. It can only be stopped by our own unwillingness to go up in flames. We could be all flame, if we wanted. And what is this fire? Love.