True Charity is a Fire that will Divide

Homily for 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)
August 17-18, 2019
Sacred Heart, EGF – Sat 5:30 PM; Sun 8:00 AM, 5:30 PM
St. Francis, Fisher – Sun 10:00 AM

Focus:              True charity is a fire that will divide.
Function:         Be a fork in the road


fork in road.jpg

Father, make of me a crisis man.
Bring those I contact to decision.
Let me not be a milepost on a single road; make me a fork
that men must turn one way or another
on facing Christ in me.[i] 

This prayer by the evangelist and martyr Jim Elliot,
an evangelical Christian missionary to Ecuador,
hung outside of my classmate Mark’s door
when we were in the seminary.

Mark was a crisis man,
a man of conviction,
a man set on fire with the love of God.

The fire of divine love that raged in his heart was a dividing fire,
a fire that called me out on a few occasions
and made me realize
where I was compromising in my own discipleship:

The fire of his silence after I had spoken an uncharitable word about another classmate…

The fire of seeing him reading his Bible at the end of his early morning holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament, when I was late for mine…

The fire of his courage to stand up for what was right even if it was unpopular to do so…

Father, make of me a crisis man.
Bring those I contact to decision.
Let me not be a milepost on a single road; make me a fork
that men must turn one way or another
on facing Christ in me.

Our God is a consuming fire,
a devouring fire.

I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!

The message of the Gospel is meant to rid us of every burden and sin that clings to us.
It is a burning fire,
a purifying fire,
a fire that clears away the dead so that new life can spring up.

The Church’s message is Jesus’ message, and that message is meant to challenge us.
A “get along attitude” is not the attitude of the Gospel.

Charity, divine charity, is the message of the Gospel.

And true Charity is a fire that will divide.

Division is not the intention of charity, but true charity will cause division at times. And that is OK.  In fact, it is necessary.

Pope Benedict XVI:
If the Church simply aims to avoid conflict,
merely to ensure that no disturbances arise anywhere,
then her real message can no longer make any impact.
For this message is in fact there
precisely in order to conflict with our behavior,
to tear man out of his life of lies and to bring clarity and truth.
Truth does not come cheap.  It makes demands, and it also burns.

True charity is not a bland indifferentism that accepts everything a person says.

True charity is a love that convicts the heart,
a love,
a passion,
that wills the good of the other.

True charity is a love, a choice,
to be for someone.

True charity is the passionate opposition
to that which works evil in the life of the beloved.

That evil must be burned away. It must be burned away by the Word of Truth which must be spoken.

If you want to see how charity divides, pick any issue that has to do with the dignity of the human person and speak the truth of the Church’s teaching to that issue. Have a conversation and speak the truth
in charity,
in love,
out of care for the true good of the other person,
to the issue of:

  • Abortion
  • Contraception
  • Euthanasia
  • The death penalty
  • Immigration
  • What marriage is and what marriage is not
  • Living together outside of the sacrament of marriage
  • Gender issues

To speak a word of love is to speak a fiery word.

It is to speak not my word,
but the word of God
in this or that situation,
and to allow that word to clear out all that is opposed to it.

To be on fire with the love of God is to be a man or woman of conviction,
a man or woman who is convicted by the love of Jesus for me and for you,
a conviction that causes me to stand up for what is right and to face with courage what is wrong,
to stand up and to face it because of my love for God and because of God’s love for you.

True charity calls us to be men and women of integrity, truth, and goodness,
men and women on fire with the love of God for souls,
disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ who came to cast a fire on the earth!

Jesus came to cast a fire upon the earth,
and he says that this fire will cause division.

True Charity is a fire that will divide.

To be for one thing is necessarily to be against another.[ii]
To turn toward one thing, it is necessary to turn away from something else.

To face the East is to have your back to the West.
To turn to the Good is to turn away from Evil.

We now come to this Eucharist, and we turn toward Christ.

We turn the One who came to cast a fire on the earth.
We come to our God who is a consuming fire.

In consuming him, we are to allow him to consume us.

In the words of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati:
Feed on this Bread of the Angels
from which you will draw the strength to fight inner struggles,
the struggles against passions and against all adversities,
because Jesus Christ has promised
to those who feed themselves with the most Holy Eucharist,
eternal life and the necessary graces to obtain it. 

And when you become totally consumed by this Eucharistic Fire,
then you will be able to thank with greater awareness the Lord God
who has called you to be part of his flock
and you will enjoy that peace
which those who are happy according to the world have never tasted.
Because true happiness…does not consist in the pleasures of the world and in earthly things, but in peace of conscience which we can have only if we are pure in heart and in mind.[iii]

My classmate Mark allowed Christ to consume him,
and Mark’s life became a fork in the road that compelled me to turn more toward Christ.

So too for you.

If you come forward to consume him and allow him to consume you,
his divine fire will rage within you
he will make of your life
a fork
that men must turn one way or another
on facing Christ in you.


[i] Prayer by Jim Elliot.

[ii] Bishop Robert Barron, Homily for August 18, 2019.

[iii] (Staten Island, NY: Fathers and Brothers of the Society of St. Paul, 2008), 129.

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