What do soccer coaches, candidates for political office, and sales managers have in common?
Answer: They all try to fire people up.
Soccer coaches try to fire up the members of their teams. They do all they can to motivate the players to do their very best. Coaches encourage and cajole, and do whatever is necessary to get each athlete to make every effort to win!
Candidates for public office attempt to fire up the voters. They make speeches, run ads in the media, appear at public events, and promise a better future. They make every effort to motivate people to cast their ballots for them. As a recent campaign put it, they want their voters, “Fired Up and Ready to Go!”
Sales managers make every effort to fire up their sales force. They teach sales techniques, set certain goals, have team-building exercises, and offer bonuses and promotions to those who do the best – all in an attempt to get their employees to sell, sell, sell.
If people are to do their best, they need to be fired up; they need to be motivated.
That concept of firing people up appears in this Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 12:49-53).
There Jesus tells his disciples, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already burning.”
The fire that Jesus wished to set ablaze on this earth was the power of the Holy Spirit. We see that illustrated in the story of Pentecost. There the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples as a strong driving wind and as tongues of fire. “Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Act 2:3-4)
Fired up with the power of the Spirit the disciples went forth to proclaim the Gospel and to call people to faith in the Risen Lord. Those disciples were so fired up, so motivated by the Spirit that they went forth to courageously preach on the very streets where Jesus had carried his cross.
That Holy Spirit has fired up the Church for the past 2,000 years. The Spirit has motivated missionaries to go to every land. It has led people to sacrifice their lives for their faith. It has inspired the faithful to build schools and hospitals, and to form countless charitable agencies and institutions. It has empowered Christians to resist the power of sin, to endure persecution, and to pass on their faith through the centuries.
That same Holy Spirit is with us. As Saint Peter told us, “Repent and be baptized....and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)
The Lord wants us to be fired up with the power of that Holy Spirit. However, if we are honest many Catholics hardly seem “fired up and ready to go.” In fact, some people might observe that the fire seems to have gone out, or is just smoldering at best.
Certainly that is not the fault of the Spirit that Jesus set ablaze on the earth through his passion, death, and resurrection.
Perhaps the problem is that rather than listening to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, we are listening to the secular culture around us. Rather than allowing the fire of the Holy Spirit to light up our lives and motivate our decisions, we are being fired up by a media and culture that promote a “selfie-centered” life that sees no further than itself.
Jesus wants us to be fired up and ready to live the Gospel. In fact, he can’t wait. “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already burning.”
© 2019 Rev. Thomas B. Iwanowski