St. Dominic Catholic Church

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On Fire for the Lord 2022-8-14 Fr. Roberto



Homily for 20th Sunday Ordinary Time – Year C
Fr. Roberto Corral, OP
St. Dominic Church, Los Angeles, CA
August 14, 2022

Title: On Fire for the Lord
Theme: Jesus wants to set the world, and our hearts, on fire.
Readings: Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10; Hebrews 12:1-4, Luke 12:49-53

We Californians certainly are familiar with the concept of fire, aren’t we? Because fires continually wreak havoc in our state during the summer months, especially during these recent years of drought. These terrible fires have taken the lives of many human beings and animals, destroyed countless homes, caused terrible pollution, consumed hundreds of thousands of acres of precious forests and destroyed some of the largest and oldest trees on earth. It is understandable, therefore, that talking about fire can invoke many negative images for us. 

However, in the Bible, and in our spiritual lives, fire can actually be a very positive and helpful image; in fact, fire can even be an image of God himself. For example, think of God speaking to Moses from the burning bush in the Book of Exodus, or the great outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles when he descended on the apostles, the Blessed Mother and others in tongues of fire. So, fire can be a good image for us, even a necessary image. It is in this positive light that I want to talk about fire today. 

Our Gospel began with Jesus saying to his disciples: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” These are powerful and emotional words! To me, they invoke the image of athletes trying to inspire themselves and their teammates before or during a crucial game, or the image from countless movies we have all seen where the hero wants to galvanize his or her fellow warriors as they prepare for a decisive battle, and he or she finishes their speech with a rousing “Are you with me? Then, let’s go!!” And off they go charging to meet the enemy. These words of Jesus in today’s Gospel are not just a statement, but a rallying cry. I really believe that this Gospel passage gives us an insight into the very heart of Jesus; it gives us a sense of his passion and a sense of his mission: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!”

 Jesus said those powerful words in our Gospel 2,000 years ago, but he is also saying them to you and to me right here and right now. He is saying to each one of us: “I have come to set your heart on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” Think about that for a moment. Think about Jesus saying those words to you, not to your spouse or partner sitting next to you; not to your kids, not to your parents, not to the person in the pew in front of you, but to you? 
Maybe you cannot imagine Jesus saying that to you now for some reason, but have you ever felt Jesus speaking to you that way? “I have come to set your heart on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” I assure you, Jesus does want to set your heart on fire. He wants your heart to be blazing with love for the Father in the same way his heart was. He wants you to have a passion for your faith just like he did. 

I dare say that most of us here have been on fire for something during our lives. Maybe you were on fire for the Rams in the Superbowl last February; maybe you are on fire for the Dodgers right now because they are playing so well. Or, maybe your heart is on fire for your family, for your career or job, for your political party or some other great cause or person in your life. And all those things are great to be on fire for; being on fire for something gives us energy and passion and life. Being on fire for something or someone inspires us to focus, to work hard, and to sacrifice ourselves. 

The question is, do you get that same kind of energy, passion and life from your relationship with Jesus and from your Catholic faith? Does your relationship with Jesus inspire you to focus, to work hard and to sacrifice yourself? I hope so. I hope there are times in your life when you want to jump up and down with joy because you are so amazed at what God has done for you, or because you are so grateful that Jesus loves you and died for you on the cross, or because you have felt the Holy Spirit pull you out of darkness, depression, fear or anxiety at different times of your life. I hope there have been times when you have truly sacrificed yourself and worked hard precisely because of your faith and not just because you were going to get paid more or just to keep yourself busier. I hope there are days or moments where, because of your faith and your passionate love for God, you want to say, “Yes! Yes! Hallelujah!” [Do an exaggerated motion with arms]. Or, for those of you who are more sedate and introverted, “Yes, yes, hallelujah” [Do a much more subdued version with hands folded].

But, if you have never felt that way, or if you feel your heart is not on fire for the Lord and for your faith, perhaps there is a reason for that. You see, a physical fire needs fuel in order to burn; it needs some combustible material to get it going and to keep it going. And the same is true of the spiritual fire that Jesus is talking about in today’s Gospel: it too needs something to get it going and to keep it going. As Catholics, we are so blessed to have many resources that can be fuel for Jesus’ fire: prayer, Scripture, the sacraments, countless devotions, the inspiring lives of so many different saints, opportunities for retreats, for faith-sharing and for serving others, books, magazines, podcasts, videos, etc. 

But, the key element that is necessary for Jesus to light your heart on fire or to get it burning more, is desire. You’ve got to want it, and you have to ask for it. That is all that Jesus wants from you; that is all that he needs from you; simply to say to him, “Lord, here I am; come and get me, light my heart on fire for you. Help the fire of your love grow in me.” So, are you willing to do that? Are you willing to let Jesus light your heart on fire? 

Now, please understand that this does not mean that you have to become a fanatic who only talks about God, the Church and religion. I know people like that, and they can be really annoying and boring. Nor does it mean that you always have to be emotional and exuberant about your faith or that you can never struggle with your relationship with the Lord. 

Rather, having a heart on fire for Jesus simply means putting him at the center of your life so that all your joys, sorrows, hopes, dreams and loves flow from him and through him. It means being aware of Jesus’ love, goodness and presence in your life, and being willing to let Jesus use you to bring his love and goodness to others. 

My brothers and sisters, our Catholic Church does not need, and Jesus certainly does not want, any more lukewarm, blah Catholics – we already have way too many of those. Jesus wants more Catholics who are on fire for him and for their faith. Jesus is standing next to you right now and every day, and he is asking you, “Will you let me light your heart on fire?” What is your answer?