20TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – C
“I have come to bring fire and division!” Quite unlikely statement from Jesus, the Prince of Peace! It even sounded radical and revolutionary!
A devout Jew, Muslim or Buddhist takes his religion seriously as if it is his life; there is no discrepancy in his way of life and the practice of religion. It is one! Sometimes we Christians have the tendency to switch from our religious mode to our daily living. Some of those who go to mass on Sundays put on their religious hat by entering into a “mass mode” during the liturgy, which is not wrong. True enough, they feel good during mass when they encounter God in the liturgy. But after mass as if they take off their religious hat and “go back to the salt mines” to continue living their secular lives. Worse are those who do not even care to practice their faith and continue living the “vegetating mode”.
There are numerous symbolisms of fire in the Old Testament, either gentle (such as the pillar of fire that lead the Israelites in the desert by night) or destructive (the fire that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah). The fire that Jesus wanted to enkindle was more than just a symbol. It is the inner force which is the presence of the Holy Spirit in the light of the Resurrection. The death of Jesus left His followers lonely and abandoned; life was bereft of meaning. During Easter, the resurrected body of Christ shone forth an inner light which signaled the New Creation. In Genesis light was the first one to be created as an overture of life. In re-creating creation, Christ was the “new light”, the “new fire” burning the darkness of sin and death to give way to New Life!
Today we are reminded that as followers of Christ, our life should be on fire, not just during “mass mode”, nor during religious moments but in the ordinariness of our lives. This is the fire of the Holy Spirit… the fire that was burning in the hearts of the two disciples when they met the Risen Christ on the way to Emmaus! …. the tongues of fire that lodged on the heads of the apostles on Pentecost… the same fire that was given to us when we were baptized. This burning fire divides those who follow Jesus and those who follow the world! Those who follow Jesus will always have peace in their hearts even in the midst of pain, suffering, persecution and distress.
I was privileged to have joined a group of youth and young professionals from Manila during the recent World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro. In their “Live Pure Movement” they advocate their fellow youth and other people to live chaste lives. At the Copacabana Beach during the Vigil with the Pope, I saw these young people responding to the challenge of the Pope “Are you ready to go for a revolution”? They were in tears as they responded “Yes”! I was indeed inspired by these radical and revolutionary youth in their love for Jesus. They are truly on fire!
When people ask me how am I after I came back from the World Youth, I always say “I am back to earth but I am still in cloud nine. I am on fire!”