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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Enthusiastic faith shows

Here is the text of the reflection I shared with the disciples who gathered this weekend to hear the word of God and to receive the food of life.

Enthusiasm shows

Throughout the past week, the world has been watching as new firsts are experienced in Rio de Janeiro.  In addition to the teams representing their respective countries, a team of refugees is competing in the Olympics for the first time; an American swimmer has won the 200m Individual Medley for the fourth consecutive time; a rugby team from Fiji got the honour of hearing their national anthem while they stood atop the medal podium for the first time in history.  For all the athletes who are present there, dreams and aspirations of a lifetime are coming true and there is certainly no shortage of enthusiasm.

Enthusiasm is the trait that appears when we are exited and passionate about something: about sports, about visiting family, about recent accomplishments, about celebrating major milestones in life.  The gospel passages we have heard today help us to see that it is also possible to be enthusiastic about our faith.

Saint Luke tells us that at a certain point, during one of those precious moments that Jesus shared with his disciples, he explained to them that the dream of his lifetime was to bring fire to the earth (Lk 12:49).  The fire that Jesus was referring to is the same fire that burns within the heart of an Olympic athlete – one who has experienced the thrill of victory, one who is willing to risk everything for the chance to feel the utter joy of triumph coursing through his or her veins.

This is the same fire that burns within the heart of any of us who have had the great privilege of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.  He fills our hearts with exceeding enthusiasm, and when we have the fire of faith burning within us, we want to tell everyone about it. Even though others might try to silence our voices  - as was the case for Jeremiah the prophet (Jer 38:4-10) – we will never loose heart.  Instead, we return week after week to the table at which we listen for the words of our teacher: words that inspire us to continue on the journey … and we gather around the table where we find special food to feed our souls.  This food is provided lovingly for each one of us as proof of the extent to which our God is willing to go in order to convince us that his word is trustworthy and that his love will never fail.

Pope Francis prayed inside the cell where Father Maximilian
Kolbe was imprisoned at Auschwitz during his visit in July 2016.
In case we should need any further proof of the power of Christ’s words, we need only look to the witness of those who have gone before us.  Today, the Church celebrates the liturgical memorial of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan priest who voluntarily took the place of one of his fellow prisoners in the Auschwitz concentration camp.  Seventy-five years ago today, this holy man completed his earthly journey.  In return for the example of his enthusiasm and dedication to faith, he has been recognized as a Saint and a martyr.  Indeed, here in this place, and at every moment of our earthly journey, we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses (Heb 12:1): all the saints, the martyrs, the holy men and women who have gone before us.  Their enthusiasm helps us to persevere in running the race that is set before us.

Every athlete must keep his or her eyes fixed on the prize that is the reward for their devotion, the object of their enthusiasm.  We too have such an object to aim for.  In our case, it is the prospect of eternal joy in heaven.  For the sake of this prize, Jesus endured the pain of death on a cross, and the martyrs of yesterday and today endure suffering of all kinds.  Are we willing to endure such suffering in order to show others the enthusiasm that courses through our veins, and the hope that we carry within us of one day knowing the joy of being in the presence of God for all eternity?
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