In the Gospel reading on August 14, Jesus says to his disciples: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” (Lk 12:49). It is hard to see the flames of Jesus’ love in today’s world. It is easy to focus on the negativity, which can become a hurricane rather than a blazing fire of faith. Rather than trying to recreate a great fire, we can take things one step at a time and make a singular flame. To do this, we must live life as Jesus intended: not by practicing our faith in hiding or in private. Instead, by showing our Catholic faith through our actions, our flame can spread to others. All these tiny fires can grow to create a community to showcase to the world that we are united in the one Body of Christ.
On the Easter Vigil, the church is dark. This can be symbolic of our faith. Sometimes our life can feel like an ongoing season of Lent, dark and full of challenges. The Easter candle is lit at the beginning of the Easter Vigil Mass, and a singular flame enters the church. This slowly spreads from person to person, and from the back to the front of the church, a singular flame becomes a whole community’s.
When you feel like you have no fire within you, an excellent way to reignite it is through prayer. One’s prayer life can have many ups and downs. When it is up, one is on cloud nine, and one has no struggle telling God their worries, the things they are grateful for, and sitting in silence to hear God. However, it can be hard to even try to pray when one is down. this is when something more powerful - like lighter fuel - is needed. Talking to others or trying a different type of prayer can help. Instead of praying alone, praying with friends and family can tremendously help. This way, one can share their flame as the church does during the Easter Vigil. Creating a group of people to depend on can create a whole group of people willing to share their flame.
Another way to create an earth full of the flame of our faith is to join a volunteer group that you are passionate about. This can be directly doing something that can be thought of as faith-related—such as reading the Bible, prayer, and going to Mass—these are all ways of living out our faith. Living out Catholic social teaching can also be fruitful because you actively share your life with others. Personally, I am teaching CCD in order not only to teach about God to the future generation but also to interact with them. You never know what is going on in a child’s life, and just talking and being friendly can ignite their passion for the faith. Other easy things to do are to smile at others when passing them on the sidewalk and take time to listen when someone is having a bad day. While not directly praying over the person, being present is a way to share your flame.
Slowly but surely, the Earth will be set ablaze. By sharing Jesus’ love with one another, the whole world can become a community, with all sharing our light.
Growing up in the Catholic Church, I never thought much about going to religious education classes. They were simply something I went to for an hour after Mass. During this time, I would meet people from very similar backgrounds--we lived in the same area and were the same age. Never did I think about why we were there; we just were. This past year, I decided to help teach RCIA at The Catholic University of America. While the class was all around my age - all were undergraduate students- we came from different lives. One person went to another university in the area and went to school in Africa, another was a part of the deaf community, and others were just trying to figure out who they were in terms of their faith. I was in a religious education environment I had never been in before. Not only was I on the other side teaching, but everyone also had different life experiences. When finally meeting these candidates and talking about our pasts, I realized that I was not only a teacher, I was also a student.
Every week, the class discussed something new. I was by far no expert on any of the topics. For example, explaining the Holy Trinity was beyond my scope, but I managed to use St. Patrick’s explanation of the three-leaf clover. The candidates knew I was a student at CUA, not even studying theology who was just trying to share my faith experience. I was grateful that they had patience with my fumbling over words and trying to Google explanations when I couldn’t formulate one myself. Through these struggles, we grew together--listening to each other and what we thought about topics. Each person would bring stories that I would have never heard elsewhere. Most importantly, they brought their newfound belief in God and the Catholic Church and why they were in the class.
I knew why I was in the classroom: to help teach and spread the Word of God. However, every person had a personal journey. One student in particular amazed me. He knew God had called him to be Catholic. He had his confirmation name picked out for years and was so excited to share it with the priest at the Easter Vigil. As St. Thérèse of Lisieux said, “Our Lord needs from us neither great deeds nor profound thoughts. Neither intelligence nor talents. He cherishes simplicity.” This student brought exactly this to every class. When discussing why God forgives us of our sins, he would just say, “Why wouldn’t He? He loves us.” This took me aback. When looking at the discussion questions for the week, I tried to find Bible verses and stories of Jesus’ forgiveness. But God did not need to prove his forgiveness, he just had to acknowledge that he always loves us and will forgive us. Experiences like these, where we take a step back and look at our faith, often show us we need to learn more-this is when a teacher becomes a student.
In the future, I hope to continue sharing my faith with those who wish to know more. However, instead of trying to be the teacher, I will listen more carefully and learn from everyone around me. Jesus is in all of us, and if we listen hard enough, we can find him in every person.