The Purifying Fire of Godís Love
Thursday October 24, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier† Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Ephesians 3:14-21) Gospel (St. Luke 12:49-53)
††††††††† In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord tells us that He has come to set a fire on the earth, and that fire needs to take place in the hearts of each one of us. But it is a fire that is going to burn; obviously, that is the nature of fire. And that burning is not only going to be within, but it is going to be around us. It is a fire that causes division because it is the fire of Godís own love. One would think, naturally, if it is Godís own love that it is going to bring a peace and unity, which it does with all of those who are on fire with love for God. But for those who do not want to be in love with God, it is going to bring division, it is going to bring problems, because people do not want God. They do not want Him in their hearts; they do not want Him in their lives; they do not want to have anything to do with His way and His rules. Therefore, if you are going to try to live according to His way it is going to cause division with people around you.
In some ways, as we look in our own lives, we even know that it causes a certain division within ourselves. There are attachments that we have. There are things we like that are not good. On one level, we are trying to do the Will of God and we want to be in love with God, yet at the same time we are so deeply rooted in the earth and in ourselves Ė and even sometimes in sin Ė that we have a division within ourselves. And so, we can see how this division takes place.
Yet at the same time, we have Saint Paul praying, showing us exactly what happens when that fire purifies the heart. He prays that we will know the breadth and length and height and depth, to know the love of Christ, which surpasses all knowledge, and to be filled with the fullness of God. Just think of those words: to be filled with the fullness of God! Not just to have a little bit, but the fullness of God to dwell within each one of us, which, again, makes perfect sense if we are called to be temples of the Holy Spirit Ė literally, truly temples of the Holy Trinity. We have the fullness of God dwelling within us if we open the heart so that we get out everything that is not God. Otherwise, the fullness of God cannot dwell within because we have not given Him the permission to do so, and He will not force Himself upon us. And to know the height and depth and breadth and length, there is only one other place in Scripture where that comes up and that is when it talks about the Holy of Holies in Heaven, where the height and length and depth and breadth is identical. So Saint Paul is letting us know that until we get to Heaven, the human soul, the human heart, is the Holy of Holies where God has chosen to dwell. Within each one of us, the fullness of God, the very fire of the love of God can dwell and can burn if we are willing to allow that, if we want it, if we are willing to cast aside everything which is not God so that the fullness of God can dwell within us and the fire of Godís love can burn within us.
†That is what the Lord desires. That is what Saint Paul is praying for the people of Ephesus Ė and by extension, for each one of us, that we will open our hearts to the Lord, that we will allow that fire to be ignited, that it will burn everything which is not of God so that we will be purified through the baptism of the Cross of Christ, the baptism of suffering, and we will be united with Him so that we will become the very dwelling place of God, on fire with love for the Lord Himself.
*† This text was transcribed from the audio recording with minimal editing.