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August 1989

I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled! (Luke 12:49)

This Word of Life is difficult to interpret. However it is very likely that Jesus has in mind here the fire of his word, the word that he brought on earth from heaven and which could not be fire without the inner gift of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus sees his word as a fire which both destroys and renews. Just as we can be sure that if a fire is lit in one place it will spread everywhere, so too it will be with his word. Just as fire destroys and consumes everything which cannot withstand it, so too Jesus' word will spread over the earth demolishing all that is false and worthless and will leave only the truth standing.

I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!

If on the one hand, this Word of Life reveals Jesus' awareness of his Gospel as an invaluable gift, a power destined to transform the world and which nothing can resist, on the other hand it shows us his burning desire that his word should be kindled and spread everywhere, like a fire.

The Word of Life helps us to understand better Jesus' decisiveness, his haste, his untiring activity, the fact that he moves from village to village, from the countryside to the towns, from simple homes to palaces, to synagogues and to the temple. It helps us to understand his desire to reach everyone and not to miss any opportunity of bringing his Gospel.

I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!

Jesus would like the fire of his word to be already kindled. But for this to happen he will have to pay a price. Jesus hints at it here and he speaks more clearly of it in the verse that follows.

He will have to suffer greatly. The suffering is not so much the effort involved in carrying out his apostolic activity but rather the lack of understanding and the opposition he will meet and, above all, the passion and death that await him.

Jesus is ready, indeed he goes to meet the cross. In fact it is through the cross that he will be able to obtain the gift of the Holy Spirit for us. It is on the cross and from that moment on that his word will become the fire that is to set the world ablaze.

I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!

So how can we live this Word of Life during the month? This is my advice: put all of Jesus' words into practice, particularly those concerning love, which is the fulfilment of the law. Through love we will be fire.

To be fire, even a small fire. To be a fire that is kindled. For this to happen we must always burn something, above all our ego, through being completely directed towards God and towards others; towards God, doing his will, and towards our brothers and sisters.

Then we should keep the fire burning and make it grow by setting our brothers and sisters alight too. Even a small fire will consume everything if it is fed. This is how everything becomes fire, a blazing fire. In this way we will seek to fulfil the great desire Jesus expressed in his marvellous words: I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!

Chiara Lubich

 

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The Word of Life is published by the Focolare Movement