When I was a young boy, my father accidentally left a couple of cans of gasoline in a room in our basement. The pilot light from our hot water heater ignited the fumes and engulfed the basement in flames. Thankfully, the fire department was able to put out the fire. Structurally the house was fine but we lost many personal items including family photos and Christmas decorations.
Fire is an interesting creature. It has the power to burn, destroy, and consume. However, it also has the power to purify, renew, and give both heat and light. The fire in the hot water heater was a great blessing. The fire in the basement wasn’t. Fire is a wonderful ally with moderation and control. It is a fierce and destructive adversary otherwise.
Faith is very similar to fire. In moderation and with the proper control it can work miracles. It is a fierce and destructive adversary otherwise.
Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel are shocking – “I came to cast fire on the earth; and would that it were already burning.”…”Do you think that I have come give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division…” Here is the One scripture tells us would not quench a burning ember wishing the earth were cast in fire. Here is the Prince of Peace telling me that He is not bringing peace but division. What gives?
As mentioned, not all fire is the same. Not all faith is the same. Not all division is the same. The division that Jesus brings and the division that Satan, Diablo, literally “The Divider” brings are very different. The cause of Jesus’ division is the love of God above all else. The cause of Satan’s division is love of self above all else. The result of Jesus’ division is martyrdom for love of God and neighbor. The result of Satan’s division is murder of neighbor for love of self.
Today the Church celebrates the life of St. Anthony Marie Claret, bishop. He is an example of fire, faith, and division. The fire of his faith gave him the courage and strength to be a missionary, found a religious order, start a library dedicated to the Faith, reform seminaries, start hospitals and schools, visit prisoners, be the confessor of the Queen, establish scientific laboratories, and write books. These works of a faith on fire brought about the very division of which Jesus spoke from friends and enemies alike. He survived a stabbing from a would-be assassin and continued his work for many years.
Let us pray that we too, like St. Anthony, may have a faith that is on fire and let us pray that we will not be deterred by division.