October 20, 2011 - Thursday of the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time

Today's Readings

When the whole world is at war with God, reconciliation with God is an act of war. Father against son, daughter against mother, brother against brother: Jesus Christ came to bring division. Indeed, Jesus’ mission in life was an act of violence. He was a violent man: he was beaten and mocked and crucified and stabbed through the heart. So also the martyrs were violent men and women, inciting violence wherever they went. St. Agnes was a violent 12 year old girl, forcing her father and the town magistrate to have her raped before cutting off her head.

We, in contrast, are a peaceful people. This should make us wonder whether the world has finally been reconciled to God or we are just reconciled to the world. Does all the world finally love God above all else and their neighbor as themselves, or have we, though we continue to use the Christian vocabulary, become inoffensive to the world?

We do continue offending the world by being judgmental, by publicly opposing the murder of small children and restricting the definition of marriage to what is actually marriage, but this offense rarely incites violence. The world sees us holding odd political views, and they question our intelligence or our motivation. We need something more if we are going to incite violence once again. We need something powerful from beyond this world. We need something which forces the world to choose between joining us and violently opposing us. We need fire.

Not an exothermic reaction of rapid oxidation, but that is the symbol which Jesus uses. When Jesus uses a metaphor from nature, do not forget that he is the one who created the nature. He invented fire, and now he says that he wants to light the world on fire. Fire is when a material bonds with oxygen, releasing heat, which causes the material to bond with more oxygen, releasing more heat.

Who is oxygen, who is the breath of life, if not the Holy Spirit? What is the heat and light of fire, what is pure energy, if not love? To be on fire, spiritually speaking, is to let every molecule of our existence bind to the Holy Spirit, releasing waves of love. When the Holy Spirit is not just a small flame within us, when we are all fire, though, like the burning bush, not consumed, then, like Jesus, our very existence will incite violence.

Jesus said to his disciples: "I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!”