It all begins with a small spark. A single match held in dirty fingers, placed to the dry paper. That single flame burns and grows and gradually becomes something more than itself. That single flame gains enough heat to melt steel and stone and to transform mud into something lasting, something beautiful.
Fire has always been part of my life. We had a woodstove in the house I grew up in. I would spend my summer vacations in the hills building brush piles that we would come back in the wintertime to burn. And in my years at USD studying art I spent most of my time building and using wood-fired kilns.
There was always something magical about the process. You would spend a great deal of time shaping the pots, decorating the pots and then put them in the kiln and spend another two days firing them before you could see the finished product. For me the firing process was my favorite part. The kiln was loaded and then a small fire was lit inside. Over the next 30 hours we would add wood a piece at a time until the heat inside grew from a single flickering flame to a 2500 degree inferno. In that heat everything was changed. Materials broke down and fused together, ash and clay combined to form glass. Mud and wood combined together with a lot of heat and even more work to create enduring pieces of beauty.
In the gospel this week Jesus says that He came to set the world on fire and He wished it was already blazing. God set the divine spark into the tinderbox of the world when He sent His only son to become man. This flame of divine love illuminates the world, it is the flame of divine truth. In the light of divine truth all other things fall into their place.
In this passage Jesus tells us that He came not to deliver peace but division. Jesus did not come into our world to spread some sort of false feeling of good will over the divisions that are present in our lives. Jesus came to bring the light of truth into the world and to give us the opportunity to bring all of our relationships into that light. If we cling close enough to the light of Christ we too will be caught up into that flame. In the presence of the purifying fire of Christ’s love all falsehoods and fractures will be broken apart. All of the imperfections in our lives and relationships will be burned up and purified so that we can be made new creations in Jesus Christ.
This process of purification is never easy, and sometimes it is painful but if we remain in the light of Christ, if we draw nearer to His purifying flame the Lord will do beautiful things in our lives.
Fr. Grant Lacey