Dear Church Family,
I certainly enjoyed being away up in Wisconsin, playing golf with my priest buddies and visiting some family and friends. I am refreshed! The message today is Jesus saying something peculiar to Luke. Luke usually talks about Jesus offering peace, love and certainly forgiving and being ready of course. Luke quotes Jesus saying, “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.” So Church, that is a very challenging message that Jesus wants us to really be on fire. Each of you have to pray over what it means to be on fire with appreciation. If you are on fire you might do a little more and you might get prayed up to the extent that you “do up”.
You don’t need to think about your own baptism as belonging to God and having God’s life in you but a baptism which means a baptism of fire where you might have to go through some sufferings and division even in your own family when you are trying to live the spiritual life with the Lord. That’s the challenge! But to do a little bit more and to be on fire, whatever that can mean to you even with the other messages Jesus gives us about peace.
We see first of all Jeremiah who started being a prophet at the age of 13. I have a hard time understanding that because usually at the age of13 they are trying to get their identities and their morale code is: the people I hang around with are doing the same. So this is not typical for a teenager. Jeremiah preached as the Lord told him to do and got himself in a lot of trouble. In the readings they want to kill him because he didn’t go along with the emperor who wanted to go to war with another nation, therefore, they want to dispose of him. They wanted to throw him in a cistern which is a big well and he would starve and freeze to death. Cushite who happens to be from Africa, his name will only be seen in the book of Jeremiah. He is called Ebed-melech, because he was a court official and he was able to talk to King Zedekiah and change his mind. So Jeremiah was taken from the cistern, in other words Ebed-melech saved his life.
Jeremiah went through a baptism of fire because of the message he heard from the Lord. Maybe the Lord doesn’t call us to that degree but He wants us to be on fire with Him. We hear that Jesus said, “I have come to baptism you with fire and the Holy Spirit. It’s the attitude of intense awareness of your relationship with the Lord and growing in it.
So Church, that’s my reflection today thinking I have a cushiony, relaxing message in the scriptures but here is a real difficult one. Finally, I think we can do that so much more because this passage from Hebrews is very important to me. “We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” meaning all of our ancestors, all the people who helped us be who we are and whose we are, plus all the saints and all the people who are cheering for us as if we were in a race from the stands. Cheering us as we go through our journey in life. What a refreshing idea to know there is a wonderful cloud of witnesses encouraging us to do more than good, “To be on fire.” Amen. Alleluia!
Love, Fr. Bob