Burn with Zeal for the Kingdom of God

by | Aug 9, 2022 | Formation, Reflections

Jesus cannot but burn with zeal for God’s kingdom.  For he has come to proclaim it, to bring it in, and to bring it about to the full.

In many places, trees, houses and other things burn in fires.  We are sorry, of course, for the deaths, losses and harm that fires cause.  And so that we may not feel so bad, we try maybe to think that there is a silver lining in this.  For indeed, there is good that comes out of, say, forest fires.

And, as one can see, fires give rise to thoughts on being a Christian.  And these thoughts tie well with what Jesus says to us today.

Today, we hear him say:

I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!  There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!

But others say that the Greek text should not read, in English, “How I wish it were already blazing!”  It should be, rather, “What more do I want if it is already kindled!”  Hence, it is not clear if the fire does burn already or has yet to burn.

There are those, though, who point out that Jesus speaks as a prophet.  That is why there is light and shadow, too, in what he says (Comentarios al evangelio 1).   This means that what he says draws and awes at the same time.  It stays in the mind and makes the hearers think it through to grasp it.

And Jesus shows that he is eager, thrilled, full of passion, zeal and purpose.  Not only does he not fear baptism, death; he cannot wait till it comes true.  It is as though he cries out like a woman in labor, he gasps and pants.

To burn or not to burn with zeal, that is the question.

Jesus says, besides, “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division.”  No, Jesus does not say it will be easy to follow him to the end, to giving up the body and shedding blood.  And he, the “Sign of Contradiction,” tells us the truth so that we may be ready to face conflict.  For, indeed, to tell the truth, as Jeremiah, and to do good, is to court conflict (SV.EN I:75).

But Jesus tells us the truth, too, so that we may make up our minds.  Moses, Joshua and Elijah did so, too, with Israel.

Yes, Jesus asks us to make up our minds.  Follow him and burn with zeal, as he, and change deeply and wholly.  Or settle down and stay not hot nor cold, catch the “vice of churchmen” (SV.EN VIII:126) and clericalism, be a  “museum Church”.

Seek first the kingdom of God, and foster justice, mercy, faith, fellowship, peace?  Or worry to death about our needs?  About having the glory of this world, and end up vain, empty, while sin still clings to us?

Which will we choose?  Do we meet Jesus’ challenge?

Lord Jesus, make us burn with zeal for God’s kingdom and take up your cup and your baptism.  Open our eyes and hearts so we may grasp that to have our fill means to hunger and thirst with you.  That glory is the cross, and that to be God is to be you, human to the utmost.

14 August 2022
20th Sunday in O.T. (C)
Jer 38, 4-6. 8-10; Heb 12, 1-4; Lk 12, 49-53