It was back in 1967 when I first studied scripture that we often saw Jesus as the inheritor of the prophet’s role in our own time. Jesus seemed as relevant as Jeremiah warning King Zedekiah against Babylon, or the voices of the civil rights movement and the war protests around us in Chicago. A messiah “come to cast fire.”
What is it to cast fire? It is not just to destroy, but rather to burn up the tangles, the undergrowth, so the plow can get through. We burn to clear the field so we can plant again with hope for a harvest. Such a Jesus was exciting news on the brink of the Vatican Council, ready to clear out the temple of the old ways and start over. Indeed households were divided, hearts were being revealed.
This is our era even yet, this messy transitional Church. Finding a way of faith and integrity is no easier now than it was right after the Council, or back in the first several generations of Christendom. We can expect as many false starts, family disruptions, prophets false and true.
I remain encouraged when I look to Jesus. He is comfortable with our broken hearts, ragged divisions, our hope for grace. He turns our ears toward the cry of the marginal and dispossessed, at our gates and within our church.
This weekend, what is your passion for his direct touch which burns away the unnecessary and the useless, to make room for life? What does this look like for you?
—Fr. Richard Bollman, S.J., a Jesuit of the Chicago-Detroit province, has been the long-time pastor at St. Robert Bellarmine Chapel of Xavier University, Cincinnati. He now works with Xavier’s Center for Mission and Identity.