Jeremiah spoke of God’s message as a fire burning within him that he couldn’t keep in, no matter how he tried. Letting it out got him into terrible trouble with those who did not want to hear the uncomfortable truth. That’s why he was lowered into the well, to sink into the mud and die.
Jesus also describes his Father’s will as a fire, but he is not trying to keep it in. He is longing for it to burst forth into the world, even though he knows it will bring division, because some people cannot cope with the radical change that it demands, and he knows it will bring him terrible suffering and death before it blazes into the glory of his Resurrection.
The disciples of Jesus received his Spirit in the forms of tongues of fire, burning away their fear and filling them with courage and energy to set the hearts of others on fire.
Our hearts need to be warmed by the fire of God’s love and God’s passion for truth and justice, so that we will have the power to throw off everything that hinders us, especially sin, to keep running in the race we have begun, and never to lose sight of Jesus. And the fire is not just meant to work on us: we are called to light a fire for change in our world, a blazing fire of divine love, truth and power, that will drive out darkness and injustice.
No wonder the English College in Rome, set up to train priests for the English mission in the days when it was the quickest road to martyrdom, took as its motto these words of Jesus: Ignem in Terris,
Fire on the Earth.