At the World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro (2013), Pope Francis exhorted the youth of the world to storm the Church and make mess. By these words, the holy Father was setting the hearts of the youth ablaze, encouraging them the engage in intentional discipleship. In today’s gospel, Jesus shares the purpose of his mission and its connection with suffering and trials. “I have come to set the earth on fire,” says Jesus. To put it otherwise, Jesus says that he came to storm the earth with his presence and teaching.
As Floridians, we can imagine the effects of a storm in our life and all that surrounds us. During this hurricane season, we can relate to the storm’s destroying power. Jesus came to destroy evil and to set the earth ablaze with love. But how can we be part of this movement? Here is where we find the connection and continuity between Pope Francis’ invitation and Jesus’ words. For us to participate in the movement of setting the earth ablaze, we need first to awaken the Church. Because it the Church’s mission to spread the message of Jesus and to work for the transformation of the world.
Unfortunately, our church seems asleep today. We are engaged in the process of just maintaining the Church. Today, we are invited to engage in intentional discipleship. But before that, we should accept to be burned by the fire of His love and grace. This will change us and give us the courage to storm not only the Church but also the whole world. And that is exactly where sufferings await us. To prepare us, Jesus speaks about the turmoil his followers will have to face. In the world, he says, you will have to suffer; but he assure us of his presence and love. They are our comfort and stronghold in our trials.
To storm the church and to set the earth ablaze will never be a peaceful task. It will bring challenges within ourselves first, in our relationship with friends and family relatives, in the church and even in the world at large. In ourselves because we would love to be left alone and continue to remain at our peaceful level of “I have come to mass, that’s enough for me.” In our families, because there will be misunderstandings and even refusal. Our own relatives and friends may disown us. In the Church, because we would say the church is asking for too much; and many will say this is not the Church I know. What then about the world? Jesus has already said it: “the world will hate you.”
While all the above is true, one thing is important here, namely, that the Lord will always be with us. And again because the fire he came to set is a fire of love. And love engenders peace. So at the end of the day, we know that Jesus came to bring peace. We see this first of all at his birth when the angels sang “glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to people of good will.” Secondly, when he sends his disciples out on mission, he instructs them to wish peace to the household they enter. After his resurrection, whenever he appeared to his disciples, he gave them his peace. So today, Jesus tells us that the Church will be able to experience true peace only insofar as she is engaged in the work of setting the world ablaze by accepting first to be stormed with the waves of the Holy Spirit. We have to accept to be burned by the Holy Spirit in order to transform the world.
We are all invited to be a part of this transforming movement as we let the Holy Spirit move us from the lethargy of being just church consumers to be intentional disciples. And let us continue to pray for one another and for our parish family.