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THURSDAY HOMILY: I Have Come to Set the Earth on Fire

By Deacon Keith Fournier
October 24th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The fire Jesus promised has consequences. Sometimes it does indeed divide families. Often, only to reunite them anew in Him. The fire consumes all that would lead us away from Gods loving and perfect plan for each one of our lives. The fire purifies, refines and empowers us to become those new creations of which the Apostle Paul wrote. (2 cor.5:17) The fire changes us into the Image of Jesus Christ and shines through us into a world of darkness.  The Fire draws us into communion and participation in His Divine Life and mission. That communion is lived in His Church. The Catholic Catechism, quoting St Augustine, affirms "What the soul is to the human body, the Holy Spirit is to the Body of Christ, which is the Church." (CCC # 797)

CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - The Gospel (Luke 12: 49-53) tells us that Jesus said to his disciples: I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!

Is that fire blazing in our own lives?

This past Pentecost Pope Francis presided at Mass with the leaders of ecclesial movements from around the globe. The term ecclesial movements refers to the myriad of movements within the Catholic Church which demonstrate that the fire of which the Lord speaks in this Gospel passage still burns in the heart of His Church.

Though these movements have differing charisms, they all invite Christians into a life changing personal, transformational encounter with the Risen Lord Jesus Christ. They all proclaim that He has been raised from the dead and is very much alive. They all call men and women to experience the Fire Jesus speaks of in the Gospel. In fact, they call us to become sources of that Fire for others, so that all may become consumed by the Love of God. 

On the first Pentecost the followers of Jesus gathered as He had commanded them. We refer to Pentecost as the birthday of the missionary church for good reason. Their encounter with the Holy Spirit in that Upper Room changed them.

They were filled with the same Spirit which raised Jesus from the dead. That Holy Spirit capacitated them to carry forward in time His ongoing mission. We are the beneficiaries of their fidelity and living faith. We are invited to continue the same mission. We need the same Holy Spirit to do so.

The Holy Spirit makes it possible for us to live differently, beginning now. Jesus promised, Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12) He really meant it.

In that same chapter we read these words, I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you.

I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.

The account of the first Pentecost tells us: When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. (Acts 2)

Following this experience they were different. They went forth from their former fear - and forward in living faith. Through them Jesus truly did indeed set the earth on fire. They turned the world upside down with their preaching. The vibrant witness of their way of life called entire Nations to the Cross and the empty tomb.

The same Holy Spirit is available to you and me. Jesus sends His Fire on the earth - today.

Chapter 19 of the Acts of the Apostles begins with this account: While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior of the country and came (down) to Ephesus where he found some disciples. He said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?" They answered him, "We have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit. (Acts 19: 1, 2)

Do we live like those disciples in Ephesus? Do we act as though we do not realize there even is a Holy Spirit, still pouring out spiritual gifts and making it possible for us to work miracles and bear spiritual fruit in our own lives? We need to ask the Holy Spirit to come into our lives today - and fill us with his power. We need to be set afire.

The fire Jesus promised has consequences. Sometimes it does indeed divide families. Often, only to later reunite them anew in Him. The fire consumes all that would lead us away from Gods loving and perfect plan for each one of our lives. The fire purifies, refines and empowers us to become those new creations of which the Apostle Paul wrote. (2 Cor.5:17) The fire changes us into the Image of Jesus Christ and shines through us into a world of darkness. 

The Fire draws us into communion and participation in His Divine Life and mission. That communion is lived in His Church. The Catholic Catechism, quoting St Augustine, affirms "What the soul is to the human body, the Holy Spirit is to the Body of Christ, which is the Church." (CCC # 797) 

Jesus told the disciples He was ascending to "my Father and your father, my God and your God" (John 20:17). He explained, "If I do not go I cannot send the comforter. And when he comes he will convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation: sin, because they do not believe in me; righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me; condemnation, because the ruler of this world has been condemned."

And in the same Gospel "I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming." (John 16: 7-15)

There is a lot of bad news in our day. However, our culture is not really all that different than the cultures into which the early Christians were sent on mission. It is a lot like the culture which the Christians in Ephesus lived in, the ones who were asked if they had received the Holy Spirit. Those believers needed the Holy Spirit for their lives to flourish and to be fruitful in mission. We do as well.

The Second Vatican Council in the Catholic Church began with a prayer for a New Pentecost, Divine Spirit, renew your wonders in this our age as in a new Pentecost, and grant that your Church, praying perseveringly and insistently with one heart and mind together with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and guided by blessed Peter, may increase the reign of the Divine Savior, the reign of truth and justice, the reign of love and peace. Amen.

We need this New Pentecost.  We need to be baptized afresh in the Holy Spirit. The Church of the Third Millennium needs the spiritual power with which she transformed the world of the first millennium. Lord, set the earth on fire! Lord, set me on fire!

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