“Fire” is Jesus’ name for God’s constant intervention in our person, by which he continues the work of our creation. At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, Luke had already reported the prophetic words of John the Baptist concerning the nature of Jesus’ work on earth: “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Lk 3:16). This means that Jesus intends to purify us as gold is cleansed of dross by fire, to create in us a capacity to see the invisible and also a capacity to stretch our will so that we come to desire not the things of this earth but the very things God loves most: charity, truth, justice, mercy, compassion, selfless service. These are, you see, the qualities that must be possessed by any citizen of the Kingdom in which Christ is the King of Love. To become fully Christian means for us to undergo a sometimes painful process by which we come to love only God for his own sake and all other persons and things only through this one love of God. The marvels of life in Christ’s eternal Kingdom are precisely what God has promised us at the far end of our transformation into sons and daughters of God in Christ. This urgent work of transformation is the anguish devouring the Heart of Christ, because he cannot rest until he has accomplished his mission of extending the fire of his Father’s love to every person on earth.
Do you not detect amazingly powerful joy fueling Jesus’ words, “How I wish (this fire) were already blazing!”? The Letter to the Hebrews spells out for us the nature of Jesus’ joy: “For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God.” Crucifixion was the “baptism” with which Jesus said he had to be baptized. Even though the cross promised such suffering to him, nevertheless the anticipation of the cross could fill him with joy because it meant the final fulfillment of his mission to open up his Father’s Kingdom to one and all. This means that Jesus loves both the Father and us more than he loves himself. When a person can derive joy from an event that will strip him of life itself but that will also give that life to others, this means that there is no place left in that person—no faculty, thought or desire—that has not become completely transfused with the power of love.
Reflection by Father Simeon.