Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary time 14 Aug. 2022


In recent weeks, during the heatwave when temperatures soared higher than had ever been experienced before, we have all had the experience of seeing the damage and devastation that fires can cause. We have seen horrific scenes from all over Europe, especially in England, France, Spain and Portugal. We were made aware of the danger of fire and have seen scenes of huge forests ablaze, massive fields of ripened grain set alight by one small spark which in minutes reduced the field to a blackened expanse of smouldering stalks. We saw houses being engulfed by flames caused by an inferno, and saw people running, distressed and distraught when witnessing the destruction of their homes. We saw whole communities being destroyed in a short time, and can only imagine the fear, the disbelief and the sense of despair of the people concerned.

Yet, at the same time, thanks to the news’ reports and broadcasts, we were also made aware of the trojan work which was done by the fire-fighters, many of them having given their lives in the effort to serve others. We saw people coming together, strangers who reached out to one another, forgetful of themselves and concerned only for the well-bring and safety of all. Divisions and conflict were forgotten for the time being, and the true meaning of Community was realised, where all were fired with love and concern for others, and that was all that really mattered.

It may be that the recent heatwave also has helped to bring some of us to our senses, and has made us more aware of the stark reality of Climate Change and the impending dangers which will ensue if we do nothing about it. It has urged us take the problem seriously and to play our part in caring for our wonderful world which has been entrusted to us by God as in the Book of Genesis 2: 15 we read

“God gave us the earth to cultivate and take care of and to treat it with respect and love.”

Each one of us is challenged to do his/her part, by using our God-given gifts and talents in trying to make the world where we live a place of love, forgiveness and peace. I cannot get away from at least trying to do my bit in the building up of community and relationships with others. I may think I am useless and inept, and, as a result I just leave things to others to get involved. But it is good to remember the Prayer:

 “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. What I can do I ought to do and what I ought to do, I will do – and I will do so today. So help me God”

Yes, Jesus said: “I have come to bring fire to the earth and how I wish it were blazing already!” This challenge and invitation is given to each one of us today. How will I respond? What will I do? The decision is ours to accept or to ignore. What a different world we would have if everyone took up the invitation, if everyone were sincere in trying to be lights of truth to the world and flames of love to those we meet on our path of life. It is possible. We cannot do it by ourselves, but we have the words of the Psalmist in today’s Psalm “Lord, come to our aid and help us” to support and inspire us.”

Let us recall the wisdom of Saint Catherine who once said: “If you are the person God wants you to be you will set the world on fire.” Or, to paraphrase it: “If we are the Congregation that God is calling us to be, we will set the world on fire.”

Let us try to live our lives so that the wisdom of Saint Catherine may be always before us, helping us to carry out that challenge of Jesus himself when He said: “I have come to set the world ablaze and would that it were burning already.”


Sr. Padraigín Mc Kenna OP

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