Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies


20th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
August 18th, 2013
Year C

Part of my morning routine – after I get my coffee – is checking email and facebook notices. Recently, I came across a quote a friend of mine posted on her facebook page. It read: “Growth is painful. Change is painful. But nothing is as painful as staying stuck someplace where you don’t belong.” I don’t know the source but these words match up well with the Gospel today.

It seems rather strange that Jesus would address His disciples with the words we find in today’s Gospel. We call Him Prince of Peace, a healer, worker of miracles whose message is one of love and reconciliation, not discord. Yet, here he tells us that He has come to cast fire on the earth, He has come not to establish peace but rather division. This statement of His requires further understanding.

We could all rightly agree that Christ’s message is indeed one of love, peace and reconciliation. By resisting the message, however, through sin, we become the opponents. We bring the division upon ourselves. The Second Vatican Council in its document on The Church in the Modern World notes that insofar as we are sinners, the threat of war and injustice will always loom. Yet, by coming together in charity, sin can be conquered and division can be overcome. Christ Himself was a sign of contradiction and at the same time, by drawing His disciples closer to Himself, His message of peace, love, and reconciliation becomes ever clearer.

This is precisely what He means when He states that He has come to cast fire on earth. In his book, “God and the World” Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI once said that this fire is Christ’s passionate love. It is His Passion. It is “a fire that is to be handed on. Whoever comes close to him must be prepared to be burned. This is a fire that makes things bright and pure and free and grand. Being Christian then, is daring to entrust oneself to this burning fire.” In this statement, Jesus is describing His desire to lay down His life – the very essence of love. This is an important image here.

Last week my whole family, save a few, came together to celebrate my Granny’s 86th birthday. For those of you who know, Granny went through a hard year, so this was a particularly important day to celebrate. Towards the end of the night, my mother, sister, cousins, nephews and nieces sat around a little fire pit roasting marshmallows. I, being the pyromaniac of the family, was in charge of the fire – now you know why I love being a fire chaplain! As I was building the fire and it was gaining strength, my nephews had sticks and were holding them above the flame hoping they would catch. Eventually, when the dry wood was hot enough, it may spark a tiny flame. I told them, however, if you want the wood to catch and to burn and get a good flame on it, the sticks have to touch.

If we wish to be taken by the love of Jesus – this passionate, burning love, we have to be willing to be set on fire. But in order to be set a blaze, in order to burn, we have to touch Him. We have to get close to Him. We cannot live our lives as if we waving our sticks above the flame of His love. We might get a little warm, we may experience much of His peace and forgiveness. But His love will never penetrate into the very depths of our hearts and souls. It will remain on the surface. If we wish to be like Him, if we wish to have Him totally consume the whole of our lives, we have to be willing to get close to the fire. This means we have to be willing to be burned, to be changed, and be willing to grow and change interiorly by this fire. It means laying down our lives, dying to self and being transformed anew by the fire of His passionate love for us. In this sense, His desires become our own, His passion becomes our own, His love becomes our own. This is why He calls His death a baptism because while at first there is death, there is always resurrection. This is experience of all the saints and it is Christ’s ultimate desire for us. For as Fr. Jean-Nicolas Grou, a French Jesuit of the late 18th century notes:

“Heaven is essentially the region of this fire, which only descended to earth to ascend thither again, and to carry us there with it. But it must first consume in us all that is earthly; and it will never lift us to the realms of glory and blessing, so long as there remains in our souls anything that is not purified.”

Let us therefore, approach the Lord humbly, with hearts willing to be touched by the fire of His love so that burned by the love of God our sins may be consumed. For if we realize how great is the passion of God’s love for us we will be willing to suffer with love and this will become our greatest desire. It may be painful but it is worth it.
















Fr. Jon Reardon

Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield, MA.



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