Rev José Mario O Mandía
Yes, that’s right. Did not Jesus say, “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled?” (Luke 12:49)
The Holy Spirit is fire. We often have a poetic idea of this Divine Fire. But we forget an important characteristic of fire – it burns, it hurts.
“Come, Holy Spirit!” Am I ready to be scorched and seared by the flames of his grace? God’s favorites – the saints – all had to pass through fire. God put them “into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people;’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’” (Zechariah 13:8-9)
Saint Paul writes about his own experience: “For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest but we were afflicted at every turn–fighting without and fear within.” (II Corinthians 7:5)
“Five times I have received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches.” (II Corinthians 11:24-28)
Why is there a need for this?
1. Because we want to be like Jesus Christ. To do that, we must all be hewn into shape. The one who does this is the Holy Spirit. “Then the word of the LORD came to me: ‘O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done?’ says the LORD. ‘Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel’” (Jeremiah 18:5-6). The Holy Spirit hacks, cuts, chips away and polishes our character. He thrusts us into the furnace so he can later forge us and hammer out the image of the crucified and risen Lord. And all of that hurts. Ouch!
2. Because we are sinners who need to be purified and purged. God is like the dentist who has to drill deep into the ailing tooth. He is like the surgeon who has to make incisions to get to the malignant growth. “Behold, I have refined you, but not like silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.” (Isaiah 48:10)
3. Because we need to be tested, to see if our faith, hope and love are genuine. “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (I Peter 1:6-7)
4. Because we have to be trained and disciplined. “Those whom I love, I reprove and chasten” (Revelation 3:19; see Hebrews 12:6-7, Proverbs 3:11-12). “If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons” (Hebrews 12:8). Am I a legitimate child or not?
5. Because we are apostles and co-redeemers. Archbishop Fulton Sheen said, “There is a price tag on every soul.” Saint Paul writes, “But we were gentle among you, like a nurse taking care of her children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. For you remember our labor and toil, brethren; we worked night and day, that we might not burden any of you, while we preached to you the gospel of God” (I Thessalonians 2:7-9).
Ready for the Spirit?