“I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” Jesus' heart is on fire with love for us, and He longs for our hearts to be on fire with love for Him. He wants His Holy Spirit to sweep through the entire world, setting it ablaze with faith in God, with obedience to God's law, with hope for eternity, and with love for one other.
Jesus knows that this fire will meet with opposition. He realizes that people will resist His love and His plans for their lives. Division will arise. Even families will split as some members choose Jesus and others reject Him.
Jesus met that opposition head on. He even longed for the “baptism with which I must be baptized”: death on the Cross. If we ask Him, He will fill us with the fire of courage and strength to face persecution and hostility with love and endurance.
Lord Jesus, set me on fire for You. Fill me with Your burning love. Let Your light shine through me that others, too, may be enkindled by Your Spirit. Amen.
Friday – Fallen Human Nature
In today's first reading, St. Paul expresses a reality that we can easily relate to: “For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.” We are weak, fallen human beings. Even when we want to do good, we get distracted and tempted and end up choosing to sin. We take the easy way out, the path of least resistance. We do what feels good to us without considering the moral law and its consequences. Then, when we run headlong into those consequences, we whine and complain and pout.
Our weakness and sinfulness make us miserable. They hold us captive, pulling us further into sin and further away from God. We can't seem to help ourselves. The passions of our fallen human nature seem to be too strong for our reason.
What can we do then? How can we ever get over ourselves and end our sinful habits? St. Paul tells us. We must turn to our Deliverer, Jesus Christ. He died to save us from our sins, and He stands ready to give us all the grace we need to say no to sin and yes to Him. He waits for us to ask for His help. He holds out His arms, waiting to receive our repentance so we can receive His forgiveness. We must trust Him to help us overcome our weakness and our sinfulness and to immerse us in His divine life where His love will wash us clean and raise our fallen human nature to holiness and peace.
Saturday – Chance after Chance
We're blessed. We have a patient God Who gives us chance after chance after chance to choose Him and love Him.
Listen again to Jesus' parable in today's Gospel. A landowner was getting frustrated with a fig tree that refused to bear fruit. He had already given the plant three years, and he was ready to cut it down. “Why should it exhaust the soil?” he asked his gardener. It's useless.
The gardener, however, wasn't prepared to give up yet. “Sir,” he said to his boss, “leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future.” The gardener saw potential in the little tree. Perhaps it just needed some extra help, a little cultivation, some nourishment. It still had a chance to bloom and bear fruit.
Jesus is like that gardener. He doesn't want to give up on any of us. He doesn't want to lose a single person...ever. He is willing to take the time and effort to help us bear fruit. He cultivates us and nourishes us, giving us everything we need to flourish.
Like the little fig tree, however, we can be awfully stubborn. We refuse to accept the gifts our Lord provides, and we refuse to give of ourselves in return.
Yes, God gives us chance after chance and all the help we need to bear the fruit of faith, hope, and love. But we must open our hearts and minds and take a chance on God that we may one day flourish in the garden of Heaven.