Friday, December 11, 2015

Third Sunday of Advent Cycle C

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).

The Fire That Purifies Us

Fire has many uses. I have a list of 18 uses. The most common in this list is cooking. We use fire to cook our food. We use it also to give light, to produce heat or warmth, to purify metal, to join metals, to destroy things, to produce a signal, to propel a mechanism, to protect ourselves from wild animals, to preserve energy by trapping it as in a charcoal, to torture, to kill, to clear areas for construction or rehabilitation, to fertilize, to manage a landscape, to clear a filed for planting, to drive vehicles, to produce electrical power.

There may be other uses not in that list. They all tell us that fire is very useful.

There is another use not in that list which most of us are not aware of. Fire is also used to baptize.

When we use or hear the word "baptism" what comes immediately to our mind is water. Water is poured over somebody or someone is immersed in water. We usually do not associate baptism with fire. \

But the gospel reading today tells us of a baptism by fire. We heard John the Baptist announcing, "He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire" (Luke 3:16).  He was referring to Jesus.  He proclaimed that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire, in contrast to his baptism by water.

Jesus baptizes by fire  He himself was baptized with fire when he cried out on the cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"  Here he was referring to that unquenchable fire mentioned also by John the Baptist in our reading. Jesus entered into that fire, was immersed in that fire for us so that we may no longer need to be put there. Jesus redeemed us from that fire. And in order to redeem us from that fire he had to go into that fire. It is like a fireman going into a house blazing with fire in order to rescue its residents trapped there. This is the baptism he referred to when he said, "I have a baptism to receive. What anguish I feel till it is over" (Luke 12:50).

And Jesus is the he one, according to John the Baptist, who baptizes with fire.

The fire that Jesus uses to baptize us with is the agent that destroys the vestiges of sin in us. He said, "I have come to light a fire on the earth. How I wish the blaze were ignited" (Luke 12:49). Fire produces warmth. The two disciples going to Emmaus felt this warmth as they testified, "Were not our hearts burning inside us as he talked to us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?" (Luke 24:32).

Who produced this warmth inside their hearts?  It was Jesus by the fire that accompanied his words as he explained the Scriptures to them.

Today Jesus still produces that fire which gives warmth to our hearts by his words.  He baptizes us with fire through his words, purifying us from the remains of sin in us.

During this last meal with his disciples before he died he told them, "You are clean already , thanks to the word I have spoken to you" (John 15:3). His words produces the fire that cleans us of the dirt of sin in us. As we listen to Jesus like his disciples going to Emmaus we feel a burning inside our hearts. This fire keeps us close to Jesus, providing us with the strength and perseverance not only to live a truly Christian life but also to be equipped with the proper attitudes to prepare for his first and second coming.

Do you have a sin in your life which you want to get rid of but you have not succeeded despite your trying and trying again? Do you have unseemly tendencies which continue to bother you? a quick temper? a tendency to use profane language? a proclivity to think about sexual enjoyment outside of marriage? An attraction to a person of your sex? These are vestiges of sin in your life waiting for purification by the baptism of fire from Jesus. Turn to him and be baptized by fire.

This purification, as St. John of the Cross taught, will be passive since you have tried your best but have failed. You simply give in to the purification of Jesus . He purifies you by his word. Listen to him. One word from him is enough to cure you of your vexatious malady. As we pray just before communion, "just say the word and I shall be healed." Let us bow down our heads to pray.

Jesus, you came to baptize us with fire. You produce fire in our hearts to warm them so that we be purified of the effects of sin in our lives. Thank you for this baptism of fire. Thank you for going through yourself the baptism of unquenchable fire so that we may escape the fires of hell.  Amen.

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