It’s Out Of Love – Fr. Viet Nguyen

Fr. Viet Nguyen’s Homily August 18, 2019

“It doesn’t seem like the most joyful of Gospels.  I think I saw people cringing when I was reading it, but you know have you ever heard the phrase, ‘The truth will set you free’?  The truth will set you free. In some ways it’s true. If Jesus is the way the truth and the life, then Christ will set you free, but here the truth will set you free and it’s true, but it’s not painless.  It won’t be easy and I think sometimes in our lives we think that things should be easy, but often times the things worth having are the things worth fighting for. 

In today’s first reading of Jeremiah it’s the prophet Jeremiah and he’s a prophet and people might think that the prophet of God might be someone who has it easy for him right?  Wrong. The prophets usually are the one’s criticized. People in the world would think they’re crazy. There’ll always be opposition towards them and the same thing should be true for us.  If we’re truly living our Christian life, often times it will be counter-cultural. It will go against the grain. You know, there’s a phrase, ‘If you don’t stand for anything, if you don’t believe in anything, if you don’t have passion for anything then really you will fall into what ever comes around.  The wind will take you as you go. That’s why there’s the phrase, you know, fair weather fans, they just kind of flip flop, but here in Jeremiah, he’s a prophet of God and what happens? See in Jeremiah, really it’s God telling him to surrender to the Babylonians and everyone else thinks he’s crazy. Why would we do that?  We’re the great people of God, but he’s telling them that they should surrender. So what do they do? In the reading it says, ‘You’re demoralizing our troops. There’s nothing good that can come from you so we’ll just get rid of you or throw you in a cistern.’ How that sounds like our culture today where if you don’t agree with someone then you’re automatically against them.  They’re trying to get rid of you to not hear you at all.

With that context we read today’s Gospel that Jesus comes to set the world on fire and how he wished it was already ablaze and if we didn’t know quite what Jesus was saying, he makes it quite clear for us.  ‘I did not come to bring peace, but division on Earth.’ And I know that might sound confusing because don’t we call Christ the ‘Prince of Peace’? Isn’t he supposed to bring love to all of us? Maybe not in the way we thought and especially not in the way the Jews thought when he was there.  You see, Jesus when he came is really flipping everything upside down, all their beliefs, all they thought. That’s why there’s always, ‘The first shall be last and the last shall be first. The humble not the proud.’ It’s always those paradoxes, but let’s take the image of a flame, he says he’s come to set the world on fire and how he wished it was already ablaze.  Sometimes we think of fire as something destructive and it can be, but fire often times is used as a way to clear away kind of the dead. If you think of farmers, if you know farmers often times have to burn off all the old roots and sew or the California fires. The great lands they have often times it’s a cycle of burning off the brush and clearing the way for something new, but so too is Christ, the flame of the Holy Spirit is to enflame in us, but to help purify our hearts, our true desires.  It can be painful, again there’s always that tension there, but if you remember Moses going to the burning bush in Exodus. What was distinct about that bush? It was on flame, but it wasn’t being engulfed meaning it was on fire, but it wasn’t being consumed and often times in the pain of our lives, the worst thing we are thinking is that we’ll die, we won’t be able to handle it, but the flame of the Holy Spirit, the true desire burning in our hearts will never engulf us, will bring a passion to our hearts, the true desires of our hearts.  Imagine your relationships with your family, parents with your children, often times you aren’t the most popular of people and I think I can speak for parents with their children, you have to discipline them, tell them no, but it’s for their greater good. You see, it’s out of love that you do that. Often times we need to distinguish between acceptance and love. Acceptance isn’t true love. Love is willing the good of the other, to will the good of the other not to accept everything before them, but to will the good of the other and that’s clearly seen with parents.  You’re always looking at the good of your children even if they don’t agree with you, but you do it out of love, true love and with true love, willing the good of the other, then you do stand for something and that means that you’re in direct opposition against whatever is against the good of that person. So to love, that’s what Christ is truly calling us to, true love, true love, but you know St. John Paul II said that the battle between good and evil is not really out there. We might think that we’re church goers and so it’s out there that we need to battle, but St. John Paul II said that ‘the battle between good and evil is battled between every single one of our hearts.’  That’s why you feel that tension in your heart day after day in certain decisions, certain people. That’s why St. Paul says, ‘The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ Because there’s times when we draw to sin, the comfort of life, but there is that spirit that’s always willing and that’s the very flame that Christ is talking about, how he wished it was already ablaze. The thing is that we don’t need to find it, will we accept it? It’s a letting go that we truly receive the Holy Spirit in our life. So as you come before the Lord today where Christ is truly present before you let us continue to ask the Lord for the strength and courage to come to Him with our pains and our struggles to let in Christ into our hearts so that the flame of the Holy Spirit may purify our desires.  Amen.”