Choosing Our Fire

Dear fellow pilgrims,

We had quite the…uh…blunt readings for today, huh? God was not mincing words for these readings. The first reading paints a brutal picture of how the rich people of the world will be “devoured” by their corroding gold and silver pieces, how they have “fattened their hearts for the day of the slaughter,” feeding on the luxuries of the world instead of service and living a life of humility. The second reading, straight from Jesus’ mouth, reminds us of the primacy of living for the promise of eternal life, even if it means sacrificing things that seem so crucial to our lives if they lead us to sin (e.g. “cutting off” hands and feet, which I am guessing our Lord is using as figurative examples).

What struck me from these readings is that both the righteous and the unrighteousness go through the flames, but this process means two completely different things for each of them: there is the purifying fire of the Holy Spirit, being “salted with fire,” but there is also the punishing fire of Gehenna in eternity. We pick our own fire, is the prevailing—and soul-searching, eye-opening—theme of these verses.

Part of this purifying fire of sanctification on earth that we must go through is explained by the gruesome example of cutting off limbs, sacrificing them, if they “cause you to sin.” I think once we get past the gruesomeness of the example, we can see that this is alluding to how we sometimes have to make extreme decisions about our habits or aspects of daily life that seem so given and owed and normal to us, like the use of a hand (or a smartphone or tablet…), if they are clearly causing us to turn away from God over and over again. Because it is better for us to be without these things during the life in which we think we need them than be without eternal life because of the sins we harbored due to our own preference for convenience or pleasure or pick your poison reason.

I think the fire we all need to experience on earth is the fire that burns away all that is of this world, the way in which we evaluate ourselves and others, and begins to see an eternal perspective from God’s point of view. Because while we are here, our default setting is of the world, we need to let God purify us with the fire of His Love, we need to let us “salt us with fire” if we want to remain in Him when we pass away from this life. The short-sightedness of the rich man in the first reading is on full display when we think about the tombs of Egyptian kings and queens…who literally thought they were taking it all with them after they died! I think it’s a helpful exercise to think about our lives in this way…what are we accumulating in our tombs to truly bring with us on our way back home to the Father’s embrace? What does He want us to bring to Him?

When I ask God this question, I hear “bring me the parts you can’t fix.” Well…yeah, God, that’s pretty much all of them…but I do hold so much of what I need to change about myself in my own tight clutches that it never truly gets healed. What do you hear from God when you ask Him about what He wants us to give Him on our journey back home? What is the hand or foot you might need to sever to avoid future sin? What is the loss you are trying to avoid by not giving that over to God, what experience of “being maimed,” or without, in this life are you afraid of and valuing over eternal life? Go into the silent room in your heart and have a conversation with your Father about these things.

Pax Christi,
Alyssa

The Faith to Be Healed

Paul…looked intently at him, saw that he had the faith to be healed, and called out in a loud voice, “Stand up straight on your feet.” He jumped up and began to walk about.

– Acts 15

Whoever loves me will keep my word,
and my Father will love him, 
and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.

– John 14

The power of Jesus, working through His disciples (Paul, Barnabas – and us!) can heal others in a profound way – if they have the faith to be healed. The Evangelists tell us several times in the Gospels that Jesus either was – or was not – able to heal people based on their faith.

Do we have faith that Jesus, working through His Bride, the Church, can heal us? Do we have the faith that Jesus actually wants to heal us? That whatever current pain or suffering we experience, from without or within, is not meant to last? And faith that the time of pain can actually bring us closer to Jesus, even when the path is steep and you feel disoriented?

On the flip side, do we have faith that the Lord can make us instruments of His healing in the lives of others, knowing full well our poverty and weakness? Paul was Saul at one point – still somewhat of a piece of work even after his conversion – and yet the Lord used him in ways he could not have foreseen as he was led by the hand to Damascus. When your heart feels crushed or broken, it’s hard to see beyond the pain. But, it is precisely in our crushed and broken hearts that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit want to dwell, revealing their love for us.

Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will remind us of all Jesus has told us in the Scriptures and through His Church, that He wants to reveal His Father’s love through us and within us. May we keep His word and know His love for us this day!

Pax et bonum,
Andy

Faith

From Today’s Gospel (John 4):

Now there was a royal official whose son was ill in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, who was near death.
Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.”
The royal official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”
Jesus said to him, “You may go; your son will live.”
The man believed what Jesus said to him and left. While the man was on his way back, his slaves met him and told him that his boy would live. He asked them when he began to recover.
They told him, “The fever left him yesterday, about one in the afternoon.”
The father realized that just at that time Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live,” and he and his whole household came to believe.

Three thoughts on today’s Gospel:

1) Jesus’ response can sound like an admonition (Unless you people…), a scolding for the people’s lack of faith. But what if it’s not? What if Jesus is rather acknowledging the reality that the people’s faith is based on an encounter with Him that reveals Him as Healer, Prophet, Savior? In other words, “You people will begin to believe in me, once I reveal myself to you.” He knows us, and continually acts to reveal Himself to us in a manner that will draw us to Him.

2) God often intervenes in our lives in ways we would not expect. The official first wants Jesus to come to his son and heal him there in close physical proximity – perhaps thinking of the recent sign that Jesus performed at the wedding feast in Cana. And yet Jesus chooses to act in a different way, sending the man on a 1-2 day journey home, with “only” a promise of healing. Jesus shows the official, the town, his disciples – and us – that even His words have power, even His voice can heal and bring life.

3) Our faith is progressive – that is, we should progress in faith through every encounter with our Lord. St. John notes that the official first believes in Jesus’ word “Your son will live,” and then again after he receives confirmation that his son was healed at the time when Jesus spoke the promise. Every day, God reveals Himself to us in love as Father, Son, and Holy, Spirit. Every day, He invites to believe in Him again, to draw close Him, to be transformed.

Blessed Pier Giorgio, pray for us today – that like you, we may receive God’s actions and words in our lives, and respond in such a way to increase our faith and lay down our lives for others.

Pax et bonum,
Andy