Jesus desired then, and He desires now that a fire be kindled on earth. Today, as much as at any time before in history, we as Catholics, as Christians, must take these words to heart. We must “rekindle the gift of God that is within” us (2 Tim 1:6). We must set the world on FIRE for “God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim 1:7). This fire begins in our hearts and spreads from person to person. This fire must begin in the family for it to be kindled in our nation. As Blessed John Paul II said, “as the family goes, so goes the nation”.
Our family loves to attend the Easter Vigil. One of our favorite parts of that particular Mass signifies this reality. From the Easter candle, small candles are lit from person to person as people share their little light with the person next to them, turning a dark unlit room into a Church aglow with light – light coming from hundreds of little candles working together to overcome the darkness. Our domestic churches, our families, our homes must also become aglow with the light of Christ. They must be set on fire and light up this world of darkness. Just as the candles are lit from person to person in the Easter Vigil, so must our domestic church be brightened by people sharing their light with the person next to them – husband with wife, wife with husband, parent with child, child with parent, and siblings with siblings. As such, parents must enkindle the fire. God calls them to fan into a flame, to rekindle the fire in their homes. Using the acronym FIRE, here are four keys to setting our domestic churches ablaze in order to brighten the darkness of this world:
“F” stands for Faith – Faith means more than simple belief for “even the demons believe” (James 2:19). It means trust – trust in a Person and trust in everything that Person has revealed. In other words, as Christians, we have faith in Jesus and in the faith He has revealed. St. Paul says, “we walk by faith, not by sight”(2 Cor 5:7). To walk by faith is to walk by trust – trust in the Person who leads us and in the directions he provides for us. Have you ever asked your child who cannot swim to jump into your arms while you wait in the pool below because you say you will catch him? He must trust both you and what you say. The two go hand in hand. When he jumps, doesn’t it bring you joy? When he doesn’t, isn’t there a twinge of sadness? Maybe this is what Jesus had in mind when He said, “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).
“I” stands for Integration – Faith must be put into action. The child must jump into your arms. The child can say he trusts, but unless he jumps into your arms, you have no proof that he does trust you. Integration means that what we believe shapes our thoughts, words, and deeds. To say, I believe and not to act is of no benefit to ourselves or to others. St. James puts it this way, “faith without works is dead”(James 2:17). As humans, God has given us souls and bodies – souls to think and to will and bodies to act. Faith remains invisible until it is integrated into our lives. God entrusted to us our bodies in order that we can make the invisible, visible. We know this intuitively. Who hasn’t been told, “don’t tell me you love me, show me”? The word, love, remains a vague and amorphous thought – a mere idea – without a body to show what it means. Just look at a crucifix. Jesus says, “if a man loves me, he will keep my word”(John 14:23). Keeping His word means putting It into action, keeping It, integrating It into our lives, living the Faith, dying to ourselves.
“R” stands for Relationship – Faith and integration are, to some extent, individual keys – things that I can, in a sense, do by myself. The last two keys have to do with others. We are created for relationship with others – with God, with our spouses, with our children. Faith and integration mean nothing if they do not involve relationships with others. In fact, we cannot even come into existence without a relationship between two people, without others. Once we do come into existence, we cannot survive without others. From conception to death, we depend on others, and others depend on us. As the poet said, “no man is an island unto himself”. As such, relationships must be built for faith and integration to occur. If the child knows that the woman in the pool below is mommy – the woman who has fed him, changed his diapers, bandaged his skinned knees, if she is someone with whom he has a trusting relationship, he can trust her and her word. He can jump into her arms. Faith and life intersect in and through relationships.
“E” stands for Evangelization – Once we trust Jesus and His word, once we put that faith into action in our lives, and once we build and cultivate relationships in and through this “lived” faith, we now can turn to evangelization – to getting the message out to others. And what is the message? What is the Good News? What is the Gospel? It is only one Word, one Person. The Good News is Jesus. Through His Life, His Passion, His Death, His Resurrection, and His Ascension to the Right Hand of the Father, He reveals to us that He, that God, is trustworthy. He reveals to us the truth about God and about ourselves – the truth about Life and Love. He reveals His desire to be in relationship with us, with you and with me. How do others come to know this Gospel? By our lives. In our relationships. Are we trustworthy? Do we live what we say we believe in our every day actions and decisions? Do others know, by our words and actions, that we will be there to catch them when they jump? Ultimately, evangelization is being Jesus to others and seeing Jesus in others.
These four keys, if put into action in our daily lives, will set our families ablaze, shine light into the darkness of this world, and eventually begin to turn the tide in today’s culture. The next four columns of this five part series will focus in more depth on each of these keys individually and provide you with practical ways of putting these into action in your own lives and homes. Please join us.