The webpage of the Youth Ministry of the Irish Province of Augustinians

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C - 18th August 2013

When I was a child central heating was not common in Irish homes.  Practically everyone that I knew then used coal, logs, or even turf to heat their homes.  The winters, often cold and long (not to speak of the summers!), were times when the fireplace became the centre of the living room.  It was very important to keep the fire going - even when that meant having to go out in the cold and dark to get more coal.  Fire had then an importance that is probably lost in a generation that has grown up with central heating and insulation as normal aspects of house-building.  Even where people still use their fireplaces it is interesting to note that what they use in them is smokeless coal, briquettes, or even fire logs.  All of this development has had, as an unintended consequence, an impact on what fire means in our lives.

Fire has been for so many centuries absolutely vital to human living.  Its role in heating, cooking, lighting and even the clearing of land for agriculture is at the heart of so many activities that are intrinsic to being human.  The ancient Greeks expressed this through the myth of Prometheus who was the legendary figure who was said to have stolen fire from the gods and given it to humankind.  This stolen gift allowed human civilization to advance and develop - the point of the myth: fire gives to human beings the capacity to be creative in a way that is normally associated with gods.

The fire that Jesus says he is bringing to the earth is not one of those neat little cardboard flames that children preparing for Confirmation prepare to hang on the walls of the church.  The fire that Jesus brings is that vital force that is associated with the power of the divine.  This is the driving power that created us, watches over us, and calls us.  Following Jesus is not about following a good man.  Following Jesus is about connecting with the force that is the basis for all that we are.  It is about our entering in to that fire to be transformed.

Baptism, the doorway to Christian living, transforms us from being beneficiaries of the light and heat of fire into being the fire itself.  We, as a Christian community, are called not to sit comfortably around the fire looking at and admiring it.  We are called to be the fire.  We are called to be the ones who make a difference in our world.  We are called to be the agents of transformation, inspired as we are by the fire of Jesus.

As disciples of Jesus we are the ones who have, as it were, caught the spark from Jesus.  In our Christian communities we gather so that that spark can be nurtured and strengthened until it is a bright flame.

Today's gospel challenges us to step out of the ordinary to become extraordinary.  We are being challenged to be true followers of Jesus, not just admirers of his message.  Will this be easy? Almost certainly not!  Divisions, difficulties, challenges etc are going to be the signs we will meet all along this path.  Will it be worth it?  The fear of the answer to this question is what leaves so many of us with just a spark, or maybe a candle, instead of a raging flame.


Article posted on 12th of August 2013

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