1. Saint Peter prophesied that the world will be consumed by fire and all the elements will go up with a roar (see 2 Peter 3:8-14). This image is at least a little bit disturbing. Of course, his reason for telling us is so that we can be prepared for when it happens. When I was reading this earlier in the week, I began to think of how one might avoid being destroyed in a fire. One tactic in fighting outdoor fires is to start a small fire and burn out an area so there is no more fuel. Then you wrap up and hunker down. When the large fire arrives, it will have nothing to burn and skip over you.
2. In some ways this is a good tactic to imitate. Saint John the Baptist tells us that the Messiah will plunge us into the Holy Spirit, who is the fire of God’s love (Mark 1:8). (Baptize means plunge). At Pentecost, the disciples received the Holy Spirit which came upon them like tongues of fire. Furthermore, the faith spread like a fire throughout the world. It still does, there are people who are hungry for the Christian faith. God has prepared them to receive the faith. All we have to do is go spread it to others.
3. If we are consumed with the fire of the Holy Spirit, then we do not have to worry in the least about the fire which will consume the world at the end. Now, usually, when a person has a conversion experience toward God, they can practically feel the fire of God’s love inside. It might even be easy at first to experience God’s power given to us through Jesus Christ. With time, however, our fervor may begin to falter. Sometimes it is a matter of getting tired out, or falling in love with the good things of the earth. To keep the flame of faith going, we must be careful to obey the commandments, lest sin put the fire out. And if we do fall into sin, we must be quick to go to confession, so that we can regain the status that we had when we first received the faith, and even progress in our love of God and neighbor. Like the firefighter who builds a firebreak, the fire of the Holy Spirit will protect us from the fires of Hell.
4. The image of the firebreak maybe does not fit completely when we consider that the unquenchable fires of Hell are not equal in any way to the fire of God’s love. The agony awaiting those who reject God’s love in no way measures up to the joy which await those who are consumed by His love. So maybe we should apply the image in the opposite. God’s love is everlasting and all consuming. And the only sure way for someone to avoid being caught up in it is to deliberately choose the fires of perdition. To do so makes no sense! Who would willingly choose being apart from God’s love? It seems insane. But there are times when we may have wanted to be in control of our own fire so much that we have in fact prevented ourselves from being taken up into God’s love.
5. There is a time however, in which a person can in fact be doing everything in their power to keep the fire going, and yet it seems to die out. In those times, we are like the people of John the Baptist’s time- eagerly awaiting our Lord, but not seeing Him anywhere. We are led into the desert and it may seem as if God is not speaking or listening. In those moments we must be especially careful to not permit the fire to go out. For it is a moment in which God is about to do something great, although it may seem insignificant, or be so delicate that we could miss it. It is in fact a period of testing and preparation of our hearts so that we might love Jesus more deeply. Even those blessings we have received at Jesus’ hands must be offered up so that they may not interfere with our focus on the Lord.
6. Saint Peter asks us the question what sort of person ought we to be? (see 2 Peter 3:11). Not fearful, but ones whose desire for Jesus drives everything that we do.