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THURSDAY HOMILY: Fire on the Earth. Living in the Son, Through the Holy Spirit, For the World
By Deacon Keith Fournier
October 25th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
The apparent contrast between the readings offers an insight we need to ponder in prayer. Though the natural family reflects the plan of God, that plan is perfected and completed in Jesus Christ.When we say "yes" to discipleship everything changes, including the primacy of our natural family relationships. Jesus brought the Fire of the Holy Spirit to the earth to transform every relationship.
CHESAPEAKE, VA. (Catholic Online) - "For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that he may grant you in accord with the riches of his glory to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."(Ephesians 3:14 - 19)
Those words from the Apostle Paul to the early Christians in Ephesus are the first reading at Mass on Thursday in the 29th week in Ordinary Time. Yet, the Gospel text (Luke 12: 49-53) seems to shake the comforting assurance we receive from them. Jesus tells the disciples - and by extension everyone of us - "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!"
He continues, "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."
The apparent contrast between the readings offers an insight we need to ponder in prayer. Though the natural family reflects the plan of God, that plan is perfected and completed in Jesus Christ. The Greek word for Father and family are connected. Paul is using them in a sort of play on words in his letter to the Ephesians to make an important point. When we say "yes" to discipleship everything changes, including the primacy of our natural family relationships. Jesus brought the Fire of the Holy Spirit to the earth to transform every relationship.
Fathers are the foundation of families, they give them identity and meaning in both life and in death. The Catholic Catechism says, "The divine fatherhood is the source of human fatherhood; this is the foundation of the honor owed to parents." (CCC#2214) The Fatherhood of God is not simply a nice analogy; it reveals the order of creation and the plan of God revealed in its re-creation through Jesus Christ the Son. We are given new names and born anew into the family of God by the working of the Holy Spirit, the Fire of god's love.
In the words of the Catechism, "By calling God "Father," the language of faith indicates two main things: that God is the first origin of everything and transcendent authority; and that he is at the same time goodness and loving care for all his children . . . He also transcends human fatherhood and motherhood, although he is their origin and standard: no one is father as God is Father." (CCC# 239)
Jesus invites us to live in the relationship He has with His Father and makes it possible through the Fire of the Holy Spirit. He also offers us the means to begin to living this way beginning today! The new relationship we have in the family of God must become the ground and foundation for all of our relationships, including our natural family. Through our Baptism we became sons and daughters in the Son. We are now called to become by grace what Jesus is by nature. Christianity is a new way of living, a new way of loving, a new way of being fully human.
We now bear the name Christian. The Biblical understanding of naming someone was a far more significant action than many contemporary approaches to choosing names communicate. To name was understood to confer identity and introduce the child into an ongoing relationship. Naming still confers identity and relationship. Understanding the implications of that fact takes a lifetime, and beyond.
Our Heavenly Father has given us His name, His identity through Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son. We are "sons (and daughters) in the Son". Through our Baptism of new birth in water and the Spirit, we entered an eternal family. As the apostle Paul told the Christians in Rome, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, not even death. (Romans 8:38, 39)
Because we have been baptized into Christ, He lives His life in us - and we live our lives in Him. This is meant to become an experiential reality for us and can become so through the fire of the Holy Spirit. If we learn to live our lives in the heart of the Church for the sake of the world. The Father still loves the world and gives His Son to save it. (John 3: 16) That happens through you and me, members of His family.
In the words of St. Jose Maria Escriva, "May Our Lord be able to use us so that, placed as we are at all the cross-roads of the world - and at the same time placed in God - we become salt, leaven and light. Yes, you are to be in God, to enlighten, to give flavor, to produce growth and new life. But don't forget that we are not the source of this light: we only reflect it. (St. Jose Maria Escriva, Friends of God, 250)
The Year of Faith is a Year for conversion. It challenges us to rediscover of what it means to be a Christian. Faith is a verb, it must be exercised. By living in the heart of the Church for the sake of the world we can bring the world back to God. This kind of missionary mindset has inspired great missionary ages in the past and brought extraordinary changes to entire cultures. It will once again! However, it always begins one person at a time.
The power to effect redemptive change in the world comes from letting the life of God within us transform us and then shine through us. It is amazing how little leaven it takes to raise a loaf of bread. That is because within those little particles of yeast is found the power to ferment, to change the lump of wet dough into a loaf of aromatic, tasty, nourishing bread. However, the power contained within that yeast is not activated unless it is mixed and kneaded into the dough.
Once you work the leaven in, it is still hidden to the eye but how it transforms that loaf! So it is with the leaven of new life in each one of us. So it is with Christians within human culture! The power within us is the very same power that raised Jesus from the dead (See Romans 8:11)! All we are asked to do is allow it to change us and then to mix it up by getting into the loaf of the world. We have to get in the loaf. We must be in the world - where Jesus is - in order to be used by Him to accomplish His ongoing work of redemption.
Leaven or yeast that is not used in time spoils and loses its capacity to ferment that dough; it must be active or it becomes useless. That leaven must be in the dough to effect its extraordinary change. So it is with us. We must be "in the world" to effect its transformation. Once hidden in the loaf, leaven always raises the dough. It also takes human effort - it must be kneaded and worked into the loaf.
The seed of the kingdom, the living Word, has been planted within each one of us. And now, we can become the seed, the salt and the leaven for the Divine Sower who continues His redemptive mission in a world waiting to be reborn in Him. He now spreads us in the field of the world to bear a harvest for the Kingdom to come. We are called to live at the crossroads of that world and become missionaries of the new world, of which the Church is a seed and sign.
We are named by the Father and called to live our lives in the Son through the Holy Spirit for the sake of the world.
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