Don’t let the fire go out!

Below is the homily preached at the SMA community Mass on 4 February 2013 by Bishop Tim Carroll SMA, for the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C.

Our Readings today speak of love and rejection. The people of Nazareth reject Christ, because of their mistaken notion of how God must act. When Christ proclaimed God’s love for all peoples, even pagan gentiles, giving examples from Old Testament prophets Elijah and Elisha, they got angry and said, enough is enough. They are saying, “God can’t act like this, are we not the chosen people?” They forgot that God’s love is not dependent on their narrow mindedness. Are the people of Nazareth telling God, those he must and must not love? Those he must, and must not heal? It seems so. They wanted to keep God and his benefits just for themselves, and lock out everyone else. We too at times can lock God into our own false conceptions. Enough about rejection, let’s follow Paul and talk about love.

Love is the greatest force on earth. “Without love I am nothing” (1 Cor.13:2) a mere Mr. Nobody or a Mrs. Nobody.  “Without love I am simply a gong booming”, or as we say in Nigeria, “big wind, no rain.”

What is love? Paul spells it out for us today in 2nd Reading, 1 Cor.12:31-13:13:
“Love is always patient, kind, never jealous or conceited or selfish…..”

Faith and hope will end, only love crosses the grave. It is consoling to know, that those we love on earth, we will also love them beyond the grave in eternity, in heaven.

People have done great things for love, love of another person, family, country, or of God. The greatest love story ever written is in the Bible, the story of God’s love for us. This love of God was given flesh and blood in the person of Christ.

Reading this love story has inspired people like Paul and the martyrs, who poured away their hearts blood for love of God. It inspired the saints, the ancient Irish monks, and missionaries of all ages, including SMA, OLA and Mercy Sisters, and others, who left home and planted the seeds of God’s love in the soils of the mission fields.

Our star, the sun, is a fire, and all life on earth depends on its heat and light. Love too is like a fire, giving energy and light. 
Love is a fire, a flame of God himself, no flood can quench it. (Canticle of Canticles 8:6)
– I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already blazing. (Lk.12:49)

We see the fire of God in the belly of Paul. Paul fell in love with the person of Christ, and not the theology of the Pharisees. This fire of God was the driving force in the life of Paul, as he tells us in 2 Cor. 11:25 etc.   “Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, with sleepless nights, hungry and thirsty, cold and naked.”, the list goes on.                

In Romans 8: 35-39 he asks us a question: ‘Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will persecution? Or famine, or the sword? No, neither death nor life… nor height nor depth will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus Our Lord.’ We can almost feel the heat and the fire in these words of Paul.

Being in love with God, or with another person, does not mean that everything will be easy, no, but it does mean that the power and energy of love will see us through the difficulties like Paul.

Like any fire, love can die and go out. In Rev. 2:4 John writes to the head of the Church at Ephesus, “I know your hard work, but I have this against you, you have less love now than at first.”

I remember at home when I was young, we had no central heating, but a big open fire. If my mother was going out, I often got the instructions, “don’t let the fire go out.”

Love of God or of another person, is a like a fire. It too can go out, if we don’t add fuel. If it goes out we are left with the cold ashes of failed love, in the once warm fireplace of the heart.

My mother’s words still ring in my ears, “don’t let the fire go out”. Today let us check the fireplace of the heart, and see how the fire is going. And may be we could take a few hot, live coals from the fire of Paul in today’s Readings.

Let us protect that fire of God, as we walk with it into the draught and breeze of tomorrow. “I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already blazing” (Lk. 12:49)

Let me conclude with a quotation from a great priest and scientist, Tielhard de Chardin, “Some day after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness the energy of Love, and then for the second time, we shall have discovered fire.”

Enkindle in our hearts, O Lord, the fire of your Divine Love. Amen.