From the Deacon’s Desk: Prayer and Inspirational Thoughts
August 14 – Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
“I have come to set the earth on fire!” says our Lord in the gospel this week. But it’s not the fire you might think of that he is talking about. It’s not the fire of the Holy Spirit that we will receive on down the road at Pentecost. It’s not the fire the apostles and disciples were looking for. They were looking for a Messiah – someone to save them from the Romans. Instead, they got a flame thrower. No, this is a fire of change, a fire of division, a fire of transformation and even a fire death. He is telling them that discipleship will come with a cost, the path will not be easy and many will not accept it. There will be crosses to bear with pain and suffering and sacrifice. Be careful what you ask for!
Do you think that I have come to establish peace on earth? No I tell you, but rather division!” In case there was any doubt, Jesus makes it clear that he is here to create a new direction for humanity and it won’t be a comfortable ride. St. Paul indicates in the second reading that we look to the great cloud of witnesses – the prophets, the martyrs and all the saints – as examples and support in our endeavor to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, embracing the change to come and allowing our hearts to be set on fire. Jesus invites each of us to join in his mission of passion, love and mercy, rooting out sin and darkness, to replace them with hope and joy.
We all seek to grow in holiness by coming to know Jesus Christ as intimately as we can. One way to do that, is to go where His heart can most readily be found – and that is with those most in need. He came to set the world on fire by teaching us to love one another, especially the poor. He calls us to have mercy and compassion, for it is that same mercy and compassion he seeks to give to us. By seeking out the poor and all those in need, by coming to know them and looking them squarely in the eye, by seeking God in their very presence, we come to understand ourselves better – seeing in them what God sees in each of us. A need for forgiveness and mercy and compassion. A need for acceptance and hope and love.
When we help others by first getting to know them, we come to realize that we are all more similar than we are different. It’s easy to say about someone, “they make bad decisions” –––well, God could say the same thing about us – don’t we as well? Working with the vulnerable brings us face to face with our judgements and our prejudices. Each of us has some type of poverty in our lives. Working with the vulnerable helps us to see that poverty with the eyes of God and the heart of God.
Saint Vincent is our model as Vincentians. He invites us to embrace the mission of Christ by embracing those in need, helping them to find hope in the future by making Christ present and visible to them today. St. Vincent said, “So, our vocation is to go … to set people’s hearts on fire, to do what the Son of God did. He came to set the world on fire in order to inflame it with His love.” We are both the carriers and the recipients of the flame of Christ. When we become infected by His love, we grow in holiness and share that love out broadly. How do I allow myself to embrace the passion of Christ in humility? How do I carry that fire into the world, fighting for those who are in need with zeal? Is truth and justice more important to me than being comfortable and not rocking the boat? Will I stand up for Christ as Christ stood up for me?
Lord Jesus, help me to embrace the fire of your love. Help me to be an instrument of your disruption of discrimination, prejudice and injustice in the world. Allow me to be a Voice of the Poor acting with zeal and passion. Give me the grace to submit humbly to all that you ask of me that I might be a light shining forth with your goodness and love. We pray all of this in your name. Amen