Unless the eye catch fire,
The God will not be seen.
Unless the ear catch fire
The God will not be heard.
Unless the tongue catch fire
The God will not be named.
Unless the heart catch fire,
The God will not be loved.
Unless the mind catch fire,
The God will not be known.
~William Blake from “Pentecost”
The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre-
To be redeemed from fire by fire.
Who then devised the torment? Love.
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove.
We only live, only suspire
Consumed by either fire or fire.
~T.S. Eliot from “Four Quartets”
We are consumed,
carried as His breath
into multicolor clouds
to the ends of the earth.
- Denial of St. Peter–Gerrit van Honthorst
Lent is a time to contemplate who Christ’s enemies really are. It is too tempting to read the story of his trial, crucifixion and suffering and point the finger at Romans and Jews. To the Pharisees, He was perceived as heretical to their rigid obsession with the law as the means to salvation. To the Romans, He was an inconvenient itinerant rabbi who tended to attract crowds of the rabble, the common people–an undesirable thing in the law and order world.
The reality is Jesus’ enemies weren’t really the Romans and Jews. They were those whoprofessed to love Him the most but then turned away when loving Jesus meant suffering with Him. The betrayals that take place, resulting in His arrest and death, are not by those who hated Jesus. Jesus told His betrayers the truth about who they were, and what was in their hearts, by shining His light on their weakness, illuminating their sin even before they committed it. He does the same with us every day. We cannot hide from His light illuminating the dark corners of our heart.
We must face the fact that we continue to betray Him, usually in small ways that we hope are insignificant or hidden because, after all, we are Christians, we pray, we go to church, we are “good” people who certainly mean well.
We do no less than what Peter did three times. We deny knowing Him when it is inconvenient to admit it.
We are no less selfish than Judas selling out for silver when what is being asked of us is to give up the material things of this world we hold dear.
We are no less cowardly than the throngs crying “Crucify Him!” when only days before they were lauding him as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, going along with the crowd, as it feels risky to stand out, stand apart, be utterly alone in our devotion to Him rather than live out our love affair with the world along with everyone else.
So with friends like us…
We have some serious explaining to do. Amazing that He knows our hearts even before we utter a word.