Reflection for Sunday – August 14, 2016

Readings: Jeremiah 38: 4-6, 8-10; Hebrews 12:1-4; Luke 12:49-53
Preacher: Sr. Catherine Kanick, SSJ

“I have come to set the world on fire.”

Some years back at Nazareth College, one of my religious studies professors emphasized, often, that the message of the gospels stays just as applicable today as they did centuries ago. So, what is the meaning of Jesus’ words, “I have come to set the world on fire” today?

What do these words mean to you? Certainly not what we see around us: guns blazing in mass shootings, lives lost as the value of human life is devalued, fires destroying our forests and people losing so much to flame, never to be replaced in the same way. This can’t be what Jesus meant, not coming from one whose message was consistently one of peace, wholeness, healing and celebrating life through loving kindness.

Look at the words again, “I have come to set the world on fire.” Jesus sounds enthusiastic and energized about his ministry, with a great desire to give away all he had been given in his own humanity out of his relationship with the Creator. We are limited in knowledge of the humanity of Jesus. His public years were short. However, we do know he experienced a oneness of which he spoke often, a mystical union with the divine and all living creation. Anyone who has had mystical moments has shared being impelled to service—an overwhelming desire to give away what they have been given. I suspect it is in these moments that we are most connected to others and to life itself. The heart aflame seeks others, desires to become for others all they need or have lost.

If the Gospel remains nothing more than a reflection of the historical Jesus and our Eucharistic celebration merely an obligatory activity, then energizing and enhancing our spiritual lives is lost.

Jesus is powerful. This Gospel acknowledges that His ministry and His call to us is not easy. It is a baptism by fire. The message may be disruptive to the norm. Maybe few of us will be called to great acts of risk and heroism. However let’s remember the potential of being perhaps one seed!

It is devastating to hear and watch our local and national news and yet, each of us, in our own way, is capable of doing something to turn the tide from violence to compassion. My neighborhood is eclectic with different races, backgrounds and religions—but where we see, maybe in small ways, a caring for one another. There are no walls—only people being friendly and extending their hands when problems arise. It may be that Jesus is asking us to simply look inside our own hearts:
• What is it you desire or are seeking today?
• How can you enable what you desire to become a reality?
• What energizes you? Where is your energy directed?

This Year of Mercy, I would hope, should not end in December. Pope Francis has called for a resurrection of kindness. Imagine what our world would look life if everyone participated? We can do this by making choices of kindness throughout any given day – at the dinner table, at Wegmans, in whatever communities we are affiliated. Let’s not limit either the word Mercy—it stretches far beyond forgiveness to include hospitality, compassion, and peace. Mercy means to listen to another’s sacred story, to be enriched rather than just informed. Simple? Yes. Easy? Not all the time. Jesus tells us of the struggle and we rely on grace to understand it is worth the cost.

Let’s look at our own lives and acknowledge the gifts and blessings we have received and continue to experience. A friend of mine once stated that when she dies and meets her Creator, she will not be confronted with
sinfulness but rather will be asked one question— “What did you do with what I gave you?” Hopefully, with fired up voices, we will stand tall and say, “I gave it away.”

Sr. Catherine Kanick, SSJ
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