Ascension Church

Homily, Nov. 19, 2017


I. From the third-century Desert Fathers comes the story of a young monk who came to the elder Abba Joseph and said,
“Father, according as I am able, I keep my little rule, and my little fast, my prayer, meditation and quiet; and, according as I am able, I strive to cleanse my mind of evil thoughts and my heart of evil intents. Now what more should I do?” The elder rose up in reply and stretched out his hands to heaven. His fingers ignited, like ten flames. He said, “Why not become fire?”


II. The talents—the weights of gold coins—that the master gave to his servants added up to a fantastic sum—one and two and five million dollars: a fortune. What so peeved the master about the servant who buried his million was not that he didn’t turn a profit, but that he had apparently learned nothing. The master trusted them with eight million dollars, a huge risk. He expected them to continue his work, to carry on his enterprise, by taking bold risks themselves.


III. Like the young monk, we ourselves may go along, keeping the rule, saying our prayers, doing what’s required of us. While God has handed us a fortune, blessing our lives in a million ways, our spiritual and evangelical lives may be a timid, tepid response, marked by safety and security, rather than boldness and courage. That, I fear, is where I find myself—too often, even today.


In his exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis writes,

How I long to find the right words to stir up enthusiasm for a new chapter of evangelization full of fervor, joy, generosity, courage, boundless love and attraction! Yet I realize that no words of encouragement will be enough unless the fire of the Holy Spirit burns in our hearts.


God dared to put his divine Spirit into us. We can be risk-taking Christians because we have a risk-taking God. As Jesus spent his life, so are we meant to spend ours: continuing his work, carrying on his enterprise, taking bold risks, letting the Gospel loose into the world.


Why not become fire?