In 2007, I had my annual apostlic work in a community where the king of the village and the priest were not in good terms. This fight began because the parish was newly created. Before the creation of the parish, the king was everything in the village. But when the parish was created and a priest now lives in the village, the people diverted their attention to the priest and favoured him over the king, and guess who is getting jealous about this! The church was then divided between those who are more loyal to the king and those who were more loyal to the priest. I took it upon myself to try and work towards peace in the community.

I organised a meeting at the house of the Church Council Chairman and I invited everybody to this meeting. I knew that if the meeting was at the church, those loyal to the king will not come and if it was at the village ‘otobo’ (village square), those loyal to the priest will not come. The Chairman himself seemed to be neutral, so I felt his house will be a good idea. But I was wrong. On my way to the meeting, I met three old men who were belonged to the king’s camp. I greeted them and they asked me were I was going to. I told them I had organised a meeting at the Church Chairman’s house and everybody is invited. They asked why the venue is not at the ‘otobo’. I told them I did not want a venue that would seem to favour any particular side. Then they asked me a very tricky question: ‘If you go to your village, do you first visit the church or do you first visit your father’s house’. It will sound funny to say I will first visit the church. And to say I will first visit my father’s house will be a proof that my loyalty is more to my family (and by extension, the village) than to the church. So, I told them that it was not my village that sent me on apostolic work to their village. It was the church that sent me. When I got to the venue of the meeting, I found only the chairman who was, of course, in his house. That meeting did not hold.

In the First Reading, St. Paul is praying for the Ephesians, and for us today that we should be planted in love and built on love… until we come to know the love of Christ, which is beyond all knowledge. Wow! St. Paul is not praying that we should love Christ. He is not praying that we should fall in love with Christ. He is praying that we should be madly in love with Christ. If we are not madly in love with God for any other reason, the psalmist tells us that the Lord fills the earth with his love. Each time I think of the love of God, if I am writing, I find myself writing slowly, because nothing can be said about the love of God that will describe or explain it accurately. The best we can say is that God is love. God Himself is love.

In the Gospel, Jesus said he has not come to bring peace but divission. He said he has come to cast fire on the earth. This fire is the fire of God’s love. When a girl is madly in love with a boy, if her mother says anything negative about that boy, she might hate her mother for doing so. In that sense, her loyalty is more with the boy than with her family. This is why Jesus is telling us that our love for God should be such that if any member of our family, including our parent should come between us and the Love of God, then our loyalty to them becomes infidelity to God. It is good to love our family, especially our parent and God commands us to honour them. But when loyalty to them becomes infidelity to God, then like the little girl in love, we cannot afford to maintain this loyalty.

The Lord fills the earth with His love. This means that God cannot avoid loving anybody, even those who do not love Him. This fire will touch everybody. There are three kinds of people and this fire will touch them differently. For those who are more loyal to God, His fire will warm their hearts and they will be madly in love with Him. They will be on fire with His love. For those who want to put God first, but still struggle with sin and evil, this fire will burn away all evil in them. This fire will purify them, and purge them. This is a process of purgation. For those who reject God, this fire will burn them up in the fire of hell. At the end of the day, nobody can avoid this fire. Those in heaven are on fire with love. Those in purgatory are been cleaned up by this fire and those in hell are been burnt up by this fire. Even in this world, these distinctions already exist.

The ‘ite okpa lato’,15404581223871687574324.jpg as this pot is called in my dialect is on fire and none of the legs is exempt from this fire. The fire in this picture is nothing compared to the consuming fire that God is. Our God is a consuming fire. Only our choices will determine how we are consumed.

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