In the gospel for this Sunday Jesus says, “I have come to set the world on fire and how I wish it were already blazing.” Jesus is ready and willing to face the hardships that lie ahead. Jesus’ words must have unsettled the people who heard them the first time. It doesn’t sound like Jesus meant that the practice of our faith should make us comfortable, guarantee harmony or tranquillity. Indeed, as he predicted, belief in him would cause the most severe conflict, even in the close-knit-family world of his Mediterranean followers and this inter-religious conflict continues today in many places throughout the world especially in the Holy Land. Jesus is zealous about his mission; He has a task to complete and will follow it through, despite the threats to his personal safety. Jesus refers to his fate as “a baptism with which I must be baptized.”
He sees his passion as a baptism which he will accept and which will set a fire upon the earth. Remember when John the Baptist spoke of Jesus he linked baptism and fire, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire”. When our lives get difficult, for any reason perhaps running low on the resources of spirit, mind and psyche at critical moments, we are tempted to think that the Holy One is asleep behind a closed door. We feel very much on the outside. At these times it’s important to remember that Jesus the mercy of God is with us throughout the turmoil we may have as a result of the hurts and hardship that life throws out to all of us on many occasions. Making decisions on the journey of life is a natural process for us; we make many of them each day. Our senses take in all kinds of information some of which we accept, some we discard and much, we are not aware of. Our minds move us to a yes or no that is what the will does. So our imaginations can present data to our minds for a choice as well. So a faith based decision to walk the ways of Jesus needs some information which Jesus gives his disciples, that information is handed down to us in a special way through the scriptures the word of God.
But some information has to be provided by memory and imagination and in so many cases memory and imagination are not always good at telling the truth of the matters under discussion at any particular moment. The faith that Jesus the face of the father’s mercy calls us his followers to is a faith that leads us to live lives which reflect the life of Jesus the mercy of God. It is much easier to follow from a safe distance and not let our lives be challenged and changed by faith in God. It is very easy to let the bitterness of others take us over but at the end of it all Jesus went to the Cross to overcome all the hatred and bitterness that we see around and about us. Today we are invited to lead lives less dominated by greed possessiveness and hatred or whatever is the opposite to the love and mercy of Jesus. Remember that the words of Jesus are there to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted those who are in any need.
Faith was not easy at the beginning of the Church and isn’t easy now the martyrs of the faith throughout history right up until our present time bear witness to this and I include Fr. Hamel the 84 year old priest who was killed in France recently while celebrating Mass in this. Deciding to follow Jesus in Faith is not easy and we will have to work at it for anything that is worth doing or being part off will never be easy. At the end of it all in simple terms we are called to follow were God leads us and he will do the rest for nothing is impossible to God who is rich in mercy.