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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Barron » Robert Barron - Let Christ Light a Fire in You

Robert Barron - Let Christ Light a Fire in You

Robert Barron - Let Christ Light a Fire in You

Peace be with you. Friends, I won't lie to you. The readings for this weekend, they're tough. They're very challenging. And maybe it's good we hear these sort of in the middle of the summer when we're more relaxed, because they're a lot to take in. Now here's the principle behind them, and it's simple to state, but it's hard to take in. The principle is: in a world gone wrong, which is our world, in a world that's offkilter spiritually, those who come to us speaking the truth and embodying the truth are going to be opposed. And, in fact, the more authentically religious, the more truthful these people are, the more they're going to be opposed. Authentic religion, as one of its marks, stirs up opposition necessarily.

Now, if the world were perfect, we all were utterly in line with God's will, this wouldn't be true. Then religious people, those who speak the truth and embody the truth, they'd be welcome with open arms. But that's not the world we live in. One of the indicators, by the way, that you're dealing with a false religious figure is if he's universally popular. How did Jesus put this? "Beware when all men speak well of you. They treated the false prophets in just that way". If you're a preacher and everybody in the world loves you, well, you got a problem. I've been doing this for a long time, preaching in the public forum, and so I stir up opposition from both the left and the right, and people say what do you do with that? Does that bother you that people will criticize what you're saying? No, on the contrary. I'm edified by that.

If everybody across the entire spectrum thought everything I was saying was just right, there's an excellent chance that I am not speaking the truth. Okay. Well, our first reading shows this principle in relation to Jeremiah. With Isaiah, the greatest of the Hebrew prophets. Anyone who's ever tempted to say that a prophet's life is glamorous and wonderful, I would challenge you read any two pages of the prophet Jeremiah. See, Jeremiah received the divine call. And first of all, he didn't want it. He said, look, Lord, I'm too young, I don't want this. And the Lord had to tell him, no, you got it. I'm calling you to this and you have to do it. And then the message he gave Jeremiah to convey, a number of them, but a principal message was that Israel should surrender to the Babylonians who were threatening them.

Well, this went against every instinct in the body politic. I mean, here they were this proud nation, God's chosen people, and they're being attacked by this foreign nation. Well, God had delivered them from Egypt long ago. Why won't he deliver them from the Babylonians? But here's Jeremiah saying no, the Lord wants you to surrender. Well, they rose up against him. So that's the background for the passage. Listen now, what the people say about this truth-telling prophet. "Jeremiah ought to be put to death; he is demoralizing the soldiers who are left in this city, and all the people, by speaking such things to them; he is not interested in the welfare of our people, but in their ruin".

Now this sounds like social media to me. This is public opinion. So the religious figure is speaking the truth and here's popular opinion. "This guy is opposed to everything that we stand for. You got to get rid of him". So King Zedekiah, not showing a profile in courage here, says, "He is in your power". And so "they took Jeremiah and threw him into the cistern, which was in the quarters of the guard, letting him down with ropes. There was no water in the cistern, only mud, and Jeremiah sank into the mud".

Now see the symbolism here, everybody. Jeremiah, the great prophet, speaking God's word. Yeah, but in a world gone wrong, people don't want to hear God's word. He, Jeremiah, was not attending to popular opinion. He wasn't trying to tickle people's ears. He wasn't listening to the military or political establishment. He was speaking God's word. Result? The whole society, top to bottom, turned against him, and symbolically he's put in the lowest possible place. "Ooh, I've been called by God to be a prophet. That means I'm going to be successful and popular". Yeah, in your dreams, pal. You're called by God to be a prophet, look where you end up. You end up in the mud at the bottom of a cistern, having been ordered there by the king. Yep. In a world gone wrong, that's what typically happens to prophets.

Now apply this to our time everybody. What would happen if you got up in the public square consistently and preached the Church's teaching on social and political matters? What if you said the Church's social teaching is going to be my word? I'm going to speak out publicly and clearly against abortion. I'm going to speak against euthanasia. I'm going to speak against capital punishment. I'm going to speak against this hyper-militarization of our society. I'm going to speak out against all this gun violence. I'm going to speak out in favor of the poor and the sick and the marginalized. I'm going to speak out against gross disparities in wealth.

Now notice what I've done there. I've gone left and right on our political spectrum, because all those are themes in Catholic social teaching. So what would happen to you or to me if we got up, like Jeremiah, in a public forum and consistently preached all that? "Oh, we'd be honored. Oh, we'd be raised up". Yeah, fat chance. Very likely, we'd be put in this society's version of that muddy cistern. And mind you, Jeremiah was speaking to a deeply religious society. I mean, look at ours now, highly secularized. And so when we religious people begin speaking what we take to be God's word, we are not going to be held up and honored. We're going to be probably aggressively opposed.

Okay. So it's always gone. All right. With all that in mind, the Jeremiah background in mind, look at the Gospel, which is actually one of my favorites, and Word on Fire, my media ministry really, takes its title from this passage. "Jesus said to his disciples: 'I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it was already blazing!'" Now you might say, oh, that's nice. He's going to light an illuminating fire on the earth. He's the light of the world. He's going to bring light to our darkness. What a wonderful peaceful image. Think again. This is a very harsh, challenging message. The Greek behind it, I'm going to "cast fire on the earth". I'm going to "set the world on fire".

Now I'm recording these words in California. I'm a native Chicagoan, but I learned about fires living out here. These devastating fires that get out of control quickly burn through forest country but then move into inhabited places and threaten the entire civilization. Someone in California says, "Hey, I'm going to cast fire down on this country"? Oh, we'd be pretty upset about that. And if you're tempted to say, oh no, that's a nice image of just illumination, listen: "Do you think I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division".

Okay. Just so we can clarify things, he's not using a kind and gentle image here. What sense can we make of this? Remember the principle: In a world gone wrong, in a world off-kilter, the one who speaks the divine truth, who embodies the divine truth, will be seen as a dangerous figure. Jeremiah was, which is why they put him in a cistern. Jesus was, which is why they nailed him to a cross at the end of the day. Jesus, listen now, in his words and in his very way of being, lit a fire which indeed had a destructive purpose. Go back to these forest fires out here in California. A fire that clears a lot of trees and underbrush allows for renewed growth.

I mean, go back to the native people that lived here. They understood that principle, which is why they set controlled fires, why they welcomed fire. Clearing out what needs to be cleared out so that something new and fresh can grow, something new and fresh can be born. I've come to light a fire on the earth, to throw fire down on the earth. Why? So that old forms of life predicated upon sin can be burned away, can be cast aside, to allow something new to come into being. Think of Jesus now coming into your own life.

"Oh, that's lovely. Yes Jesus, please come into my heart". Well, yes, but that's a dangerous proposition when you let this Jesus, the real one, I don't mean some cultural construct, I don't mean some Hallmark card Jesus, I mean the real number, you let the real Jesus in. He's going to burn some things away, right? We use the image of Jesus cleansing the temple. That's like cleaning out the temple that he wants to inhabit, the temple of your heart. Well, in a similar way, he's going to burn away in you what needs burning away. Your hatred, your cruelty, your selfabsorption, the sins that you've been sort of playing with for years and years and not dealing with, old grudges and old problems. Jesus is going to burn all of that away if you let him in.

And then, just to make this whole thing eminently clear: "You think I have come for peace? No, I have come rather for division". Now listen as he specifies: "From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father; a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother; a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law".

Wow. Could he be any clearer? Could he be any more provocative? I don't think so. Families themselves will be divided. And see, up and down the Christian centuries, everybody, this has been true. I know this in my pastoral ministry. It's true to this day that when Jesus comes into people's lives, what has to give way are phony and false forms of community. You see what I'm saying? "Oh, that's my family". Yeah, but it might be a family that's predicated upon all kinds of dysfunction. That family has to be disrupted so that the new family of the kingdom of God might be born. Anyone that's ever dealt with families experiencing alcohol addiction or domestic violence or any of these forms of dysfunction, to heal the family, it first has to be disrupted. Something's got to be broken up. You got to put a wrench in the works because that family's been predicated upon all kinds of dangers and false assumptions.

And so when Jesus comes, yes, he's a fire that's going to burn things away. Yes, he's a source of division often before he's a source of unity, because you can't build the new house on some lousy foundation, right? You've got to clear the old house and the old foundation away and build something new. Okay. So authentic religious people, from Jeremiah to Jesus, they're always troublemakers. Not sometimes, I mean always. Because in a world gone wrong, they're going to seem problematic. In a crazy world, they're going to seem crazy. So the question for all of us today: Do we have the courage to listen to Jeremiah, to listen to Jesus, to let Christ light a fire in us and burn away what needs burning away, to break up the phony false forms of community, so as to allow the true community of the kingdom of God to be born? And God bless you.
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