Set the earth on fire
Following is the prepared text from Bishop Olmsted’s homily from Mass and Confirmations on August 18, 2019, at the All Saints Catholic Newman Center at Arizona State University:
“I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” Lk 12:49
When we come to pray, when we come to Mass, the Lord gives us far more than we can ask or imagine. He gives us His very Self. He meets us personally, in an encounter that is far from frivolous and much wiser than despair. Jesus comes as a fire that we cannot manipulate; as a flame that frees from distorted notions that surround us, about masculinity or femininity, lies about marriage, chaste living and the dignity of every person. He frees us from lies about ourselves and about our ability, with God’s grace, to live a virtuous life. This freedom from distortions readies us to recognize and receive His healing and consoling love of the Lord.
When we listen to God’s word, at Mass or in our room, no flood can extinguish the flames that Christ sets ablaze in our soul. His Presence lights a fire that no darkness can overcome. It is a fire of mercy that cuts through pride and disarms fear, freeing us to recognize our sins and humbly to confess them to the Lord. Jesus purifies the heart so it can surrender in truth to Him.
We encounter the fire of Christ every time we receive the sacraments, especially Confirmation, the Eucharist, and Confession.
The confessional represents the front lines of the soul’s battle for freedom. It is not easy to escape self-deception or the lies of the Evil One. But through a good Confession, the Lord exposes to the light our false excuses and rationalizations. He enkindles our desire for His liberating love. He humbles us only to exalt us.
With a sincere confession, we invite the fire of the Holy Spirit to purify our hearts, dividing truth from lies, freeing right from wrong, expelling the darkness from a heart created to be a Temple of God. Every time we go to confession, Jesus assures us, “Fear not, little one. The Father longs to give you the Kingdom.” Whoever humbles himself/herself will be exalted.
The fire of Jesus comes to us also in a powerful way in the Sacrifice of the Eucharist.
When we receive Jesus worthily in Holy Communion, He reminds us of His words, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were blazing.” He ignites in us the fire of adoration. Like the Magi who traveled afar to kneel in a stable in Bethlehem and pay homage to the King of kings, the soul that receives the Body and Blood of Christ at Mass becomes the throne room of the King of the universe. Wherever Jesus is, there is the fire of mercy. His wondrous presence provides refuge and courage for the humble; it brings down the proud and lifts up the lowly.
The Letter to the Hebrews tells us today: “Our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29). This is the truth. We can build our life upon it. When the Lord speaks to us, let us expect to experience liberation and conversion, a dramatic intervention that far exceeds an abstract thought. The Lord’s fire lifts us out of whatever tangle of lies have been strangling our hearts and brings us into the light and joy of the Kingdom of God. It frees us and fortifies us to walk with dignity as beloved children of God.
My beloved sons and daughters in Christ, the Lord created our hearts to hear, to see, and to know Love, not as an abstract idea but as a Person whose Name is Jesus, who suffered death to redeem us on the Cross and rose to new life to reveal the wonder of His love. At every Mass, He comes to us as the Bridegroom of our soul; He says, “Come, my beloved, my little one, come. Taste and see the goodness of my love.”
And in the Sacrament of Confirmation, He pours out the gift of the Holy Spirit, who is the Life and Love in Person between the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit lifts you and me into the inner life of the Blessed Trinity and fills our souls with that perfect rest that only His love can give. Through the Letter to the Hebrews, the Lord offers us excellent advice for remaining faithful in love for Him. He says, “…let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus” (12:1-2). The fire of Jesus’ love rids us from whatever is keeping us from running the race of virtuous living and of keeping our eyes fixed on Him.
When St. Ignatius of Loyola bid farewell to the missionaries he was sending around the world, he told them, “Go, set the world on fire!” To whomever Jesus calls to be His servant and His friend, He says: “Go, set the world on fire!”