Jeremiah has set things on fire with his words of admonishment again the king and his policies. When he tried to stop himself, his heart felt as if it was burning within him. He couldn’t help himself. He had to proclaim God’s message, no matter the consequences. The king and his sons responded Jeremiah’s fiery words differently. The princes wanted him silenced. They wanted to extinguish the fire he had set. So, they threw him into a cistern where the waters would quench the flames. The king, upon the advice of Ebed-melech, turned against his sons and rescued Jeremiah, who went on to light fire after fire as he called the king and the kingdom to faithfulness.
Jesus set the world on fire. His words and deeds scared the leaders of both the Jewish faith community and the government officials installed by the Roman occupiers. They were afraid that they would be burned by what he said and did. So, they sought to put out the fire, to extinguish the blaze before it spread too far.
Every year at the Easter Vigil, a fire is built so that the light will overcome the darkness. A single flame is passed around until hundreds of flames light up the otherwise darkened church building. The new light of the resurrection is handed on to those baptized that night, too.
Today’s readings challenge us all to be on fire with the message of God, a message that calls us to be faithful to the covenant. We are called to be on fire with love of God and love of neighbor—the neighbor whom Jesus describes as the one who needs us here and now, like the man attacked by the robbers and left for dead along the side of the road. We are called to be on fire with concern for the least of our brothers and sisters. And if we are on fire with our faith, some of those close to us may be burned by their indifference to the needs of others.
Like Jeremiah, our hearts ought to be on fire, even if we know that we and others may be burned by the fire that calls us to do justice, to speak truth, to follow the One who set the world on fire in the first place.