Letting Christ’s Fire Ignite Us, 29th Thursday (I), October 26, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Thursday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Votive Mass for the Family
October 26, 2017
Rom 6:19-23, Ps 1, Lk 12:49-53


To listen to an audio of this homily, please click below: 


The following points were attempted in the homily:

  • “I have come to set the earth on fire,” Jesus tells us today, “and how I wish it were already blazing!” Over the last couple of days, Jesus has described for us how he wants us to have our lamps lit for him; how he wants our loins girt to work with him for and in his kingdom and to run to bring the Gospel to others; how he wants us to be like faithful and prudent stewards who know of their master’s imminent return and care for his menservants and maidservants with the gifts he has given us for that purpose. All of this is meant to be interpreted within what he tells us today, that he ardently desires this and that he wants us to respond to these summons with similar fire. He wants his fire to be in us and our fire to be all-consuming. He wants us to share the fire of his love. The ignition for that world-wide bonfire he has come to set happened on Golgotha, when we were able to witness the Love of God crucified. That’s the reference to “baptism” that Jesus longed to undergo, the baptism of blood on Calvary. There’s no great witness to his fire.
  • But he says that that fire comes with suffering. There were many who responded to his ardent love with coldness or tepidity. There were many who rejected his love. And when we’re inflamed with the same divine fire, we will experience those reactions, too. That’s why Jesus immediately after talking about the fire he seeks to set in us so that we may have our lamps perpetually lit and loins girt as faithful and prudent stewards describes the division that fire will cause. He says that he’s come not to bring “peace,” understood as a life without conflict, but “division,” and even our families would be divided. This was not because Christ is a divider — as he said during the Last Supper and we ponder each Mass, he came to bring us peace and leave us his peace, the fruit of a right relationship with God — but when someone opts for Christ, others who want to be first get jealous and angry, and that’s what divides. This was true in the early Church. Often when Jews converted to Christianity, they were disowned by their family. Still today when a Muslim converts  to Christianity in various fundamentalist Muslim countries, or a Hindu converts in certain fundamentalist areas in India, a contract is put out on them, and most often by the members of his or her own family. Still, too, in many families, when one person becomes on fire for the faith, the tepid members of the family can begin to resist, mock and even persecute, at the “holier-than-you-goodie-two-shoes” in their midst. When one person who has caught the flame of faith wants to respond to Love with the gift of his or her life as a priest, religious or consecrated person, often other family members put up strong opposition. This is what Jesus is describing. The key for all of us is that we see that our choice for Christ must come first, above our other choices, above our other loves, even if we should have to suffer as a result of it. Jesus, after all, has made that choice for us.
  • The other readings show some of the consequences of living our faith with the fire of love for God and others. The first Psalm describes the one on fire with love for God as one someone who “follows not the counsel of the wicked nor walks in the way of sinners, nor sits in the company of the insolent, but delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on his law day and night.” In other words, he chooses his friends with care to protect and augment his flame, he delights in Sacred Scripture because the Lord’s word is a lamp for his steps, delights in the Commandments which are expressions of love for God and others, delights in the Lord and perseveringly and faithfully prays about what God has revealed day and night.  The Psalm goes on to say, “He is like a tree planted near running water, that yields its fruit in due season, and whose leaves never fade.” He plants himself, in other words, in Christ, the living water, and that’s the source of continued fruitfulness no matter the season. This is contrasted with the fool, the wicked, who are “like chaff which the wind drives away,” whose way “vanishes.” The this-worldly passions that burn him up leave him unsubstantial, like dead chaff blown away in the breeze.
  • St. Paul similarly describes some of the practical consequences of being inflamed by Christ in the first reading. Building on what he taught us yesterday in his letter to the Romans, St. Paul says that the fire of Christ is meant to change the fundamental orientation of our life. Prior to Christ, we “presented the parts of [our] bodies as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness for lawlessness,” but once Christ has come we “now present them as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.” We got from being slaves to sin to slaves of God, yoked to his holiness. The first path leads to death. The second leads to “eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” St. Paul is saying throughout this sixth chapter of his letter to the Romans that we have to make a choice to become slaves, committed life-long servants of Christ, seeking his will not ours, his kingdom, not ours, his glory, not ours. Many Christians only go half-way in their discipleship. They don’t respond to God’s love with a total commitment. God wants to give us his fire so that we may make and keep such a commitment in response to his.
  • Every June 9, on the feast of St. Ephrem, I like to mention what he says in his mystical teachings about fire and the Holy Eucharist.  In one poem, St. Ephrem writes from the perspective of Jesus, “Take, eat, entertaining no doubt of faith, because this is My Body, and whoever eats it in belief eats in it Fire and Spirit.’” To enter into Communion with the Lord is to consume “Fire” and “Spirit,” a fire and a Holy Spirit that can transform our entire life. We can also recall St. Catherine of Siena, whose most famous line, one that St. John Paul II often quoted in his talks to young people, was “Se sarete quello che dovete essere, metterete fuoco in tutta Italia, non tanto costì.” “If you are who you should be, you will set not only Italy but the whole world ablaze.” Christ has come to set the world on fire. He was come to set us on fire. How are we going to cooperate with how that loving Flame wants to transforms us today?


The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1
ROM 6:19-23

Brothers and sisters:
I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your nature.
For just as you presented the parts of your bodies as slaves to impurity
and to lawlessness for lawlessness,
so now present them as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.
For when you were slaves of sin, you were free from righteousness.
But what profit did you get then
from the things of which you are now ashamed?
For the end of those things is death.
But now that you have been freed from sin and have become slaves of God,
the benefit that you have leads to sanctification,
and its end is eternal life.
For the wages of sin is death,
but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Responsorial Psalm
PS 1:1-2, 3, 4 AND 6

R. (Ps 40:5) Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
Blessed the man who follows not
the counsel of the wicked
Nor walks in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
and meditates on his law day and night.
R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
He is like a tree
planted near running water,
That yields its fruit in due season,
and whose leaves never fade.
Whatever he does, prospers.
R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
Not so the wicked, not so;
they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
For the LORD watches over the way of the just,
but the way of the wicked vanishes.
R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.

LK 12:49-53

Jesus said to his disciples:
“I have come to set the earth on fire,
and how I wish it were already blazing!
There is a baptism with which I must be baptized,
and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!
Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?
No, I tell you, but rather division.
From now on a household of five will be divided,
three against two and two against three;
a father will be divided against his son
and a son against his father,
a mother against her daughter
and a daughter against her mother,
a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”