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March 24, 2019
[St. Theresa Church, Mountain View (Confirmation & First Communion)]
He was on fire! That is something we might say about a basketball player who is filled with spunk, energy and zeal to win the game. Yet, while that player is expending energy, his success on the court may actually give him more energy, more fire, so that he is like a bush that is on fire but does not burn.
The story of Moses encountering God in the burning bush teaches us that God was on fire with love for his people. He would do anything for them, and because he knew they were being oppressed as slaves in Egypt, he has a grand plan to set them free, and Moses was a part of that plan. Not only is God not consumed by the burning love he has for us, but just as he set Moses on fire to accomplish the mission he had entrusted to him, God sets us on fire so that we, too, can accomplish the same mission he has for all of us.
If you think the vision Moses saw of God was amazing, there was something even more amazing to come. God would send us his own Son, Jesus, to be God and man at the same time, to unite us forever with God. And Jesus burned with such love for us, that he laid down his life for us on the cross. Just as God’s fire of love for the people of Israel led him to fight for them against Pharaoh, even more does his love for us, shown in Jesus, lead him to fight the ancient enemy, who wants to enslave us all, Satan. But just when Satan and everyone else thought that this fiery love of Jesus was extinguished forever by death on the cross, God raised him from the dead, so that the fire could keep burning and Jesus would never fade away. And just as God’s burning love set Moses on fire, so Jesus’ fiery love sets us all on fire with the gift of the Holy Spirit, whom we are told first came down upon the disciples of Jesus as tongue of fire. You who are to be confirmed today will receive that same Holy Spirit, so that he may set you on fire forever with the love that he wants you to use to set others on fire with his love. You will have the privilege not just of encountering God, but of consuming the Body and Blood of Jesus himself for the first time. If Moses was on holy ground, how much more are we?
God gives you the gift of these experiences so that you can lead others to the freedom that God wants them to experience. He gives you these gifts of the Holy Spirit and of the Body and Blood of Christ so that you can bear good fruit, not be deadwood that just receives a gift but gives nothing in return, like the fig tree in the Gospel. He gives it to you not because you are perfect. No, we are all just like the people in the Gospel who suffered misfortunes and everyone thought they were so evil. But Jesus points out that we all have our sins, and we all need to repent. That is why we need to stay close to him, coming to Mass every Sunday, going to confession regularly, reading the Bible often, and praying always. God knows we are not perfect, and that we can easily snuff out the fire of his Holy Spirit or simply let it smolder without giving it the awe and reverence it deserves. Yet he still appears before us with the burning love of Jesus that is merciful beyond measure. He still calls you – and all of us – to be his witnesses, so that all the world can burn with his love, yet never be consumed or diminished.