So much of the ministry of Jesus involved healing and consoling those who were sick and distressed. This continues to be a large part of the work of the Church today, as many people need to hear the message of hope and consolation. Many Christians affirm that their religion provides great comfort in their lives. But there are times when the Church is called to do more than affirm and comfort. There are times when the Church must challenge and oppose the evils of our society. Some members of the Church become very upset when this happens, when the Church speaks up against the social injustices in a public forum. Their argument is that Jesus was all about bringing comfort and hope, and not about division. Didn’t he proclaim: “Peace I leave you, my peace I give you!”
Jesus was far from being a gentle and politically correct leader when He exclaimed: “I came to cast fire upon the earth, and would that it were already kindled. Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” Whenever we think that our faith is all about being nice and politically correct, we should look at Christ in today’s Gospel who was completely consumed with a desire to save souls. He wanted to shake his listeners from sleep, and help them realize that to be his follower you must allow God’s word to consume you like fire, so that there is nothing else left to guide you but God’s word. We must remember that Christ paid for his convictions with His own blood. We must remember that early Christians suffered for their faith, many of them died. They were able to suffer for their faith because they were on fire for God, completely consumed by God’s love.
Christ’s challenge to be on fire for our faith is needed in our world today. What expectations do we have of religion today? How do we feel when the Church takes a stand on social issues? Do we believe that religion should remain “private”? If we find the practice of religion easy, we might consider whether we truly understand our faith. If the gospel doesn’t shake us up now and then, we might consider whether we are truly listening.
Fr. Wojtek Kuzma