YOU WILL BE MY WITNESSES

Christ of the burnt men and women

4

“I will try, like them
To be my own silence
And this is difficult. The whole
World is secretly on fire. The stones
Burn, even the stones they burn me.
How can a man be still or
Listen to all things burning?
How can he dare to sit with them
When all their silence is on fire?”
(Thomas Merton)

How can the world be saved? How can we give hope to this planet in peril?

Only a mass movement of burnt men and women who are not afraid to sacrifice themselves to witness to Christ’s victory over death can stop the planet from careening madly into destruction.

Only burnt witnesses, baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire (Mt. 3:11) can dare the flames, burning with fiery indignation over the injustice, the killing of journalists, the abuse of children, the environmental degradation, seeking the Risen One in pastoral work, social action and political and economic struggle.


Fighting for the dignity of human beings and giving hope to a planet in peril will take its toll but these burnt witnesses will deny evil its power by laughing at its irrationality and absorbing its poison into themselves.

The world needs burnt men and women to engage in the inevitable conflicts and ambiguous struggle for justice, peace and the integrity of creation, with their creative moral imagination, their holistic and integrative spirituality and their courage to choose and act wisely.

These burnt men and women search for God as they are made wholly flame. Like the burning bush, they are not consumed.

The need for witnesses
We need witnesses who can be the light of the world in this age of despair and willing to pay the price in confronting the dark side of political, economic and cultural institutions.

We need witnesses on fire with a vision, people who fear no evil as they organize, mobilize, network and sustain communities of the poor towards a sustainable future in fulfillment of the divine imperative.

Beauty, truth and goodness are the keys to unlocking the secrets of the evolving universe. Burnt women and men have to be set on fire, pure, hard, demanding fire to unlock these secrets.

A vision of a planet aflame with justice, peace and integrity of creation can be only be achieved this way – when a mass of faithful witnesses to the Resurrection give their lives as they widen the concentric circles of their compassion so that future generations might be able to live. They will measure themselves by what they give, not by what they have taken.

Burnt men and women are ordinary people who differ from others only by the depth of their caring. They burn with anger and courage born of hope as they move into higher stages of personal development and growth.

Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego whose hair was not even singed in the furnace of fire (Dan. 3:25), the world needs burnt men and women who are not afraid to walk in the shadow of the valley of death (Ps. 23:4), who strive to create an inclusive participatory democracy so that the poor can take responsibility for solving the problems in their own community.

They have to learn to find ways to combine their different worlds and values (sometimes the warring parts of themselves) so that they can become more expansive, not more diminished, human beings. They can make their weakness a source of creativity.

Their sense of the presence of the Risen One in an evolving cosmos nurtures contemplation and energizes action. It will foster a mindfulness that balances silence and activity, personal holiness and social transformation through compassion.

God as consuming fire
There has to be a fire burning inside of people who would like to transform the world. The theme of spiritual sacrifice and martyrdom is fused with that of fire.

Being on fire sets the capacity for initiative, exploration, and endurance aflame. Being on fire provides us with the opportunity of experiencing beauty, truth and goodness in their purest forms. Being on fire enflames the imagination about what it means to be a human being in an evolving cosmos.

Ordinary believers think you have to DO something to be faithful witnesses. Burnt men and women believe you have to BE something to be a faithful witness. They focus less on pious devotions and more on character, vision and responsibility.

We can create the future if it is imagined and realized by burnt men and women who work and sacrifice for a human future, who will make a stand for timeless human values like love, integrity, solidarity, creativity, respect for the dignity of every human being, and caring for the weak and disadvantaged.

If we are open enough, perceptive and persistent enough to connect with others and the world, we can become greater than ourselves. We will plod on with passion and devotion, even when we continue to be afraid, amidst the atmosphere of mindless violence and the proximity of death. As Henry James wrote, “We work in the dark – we do what we can – we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task.”

Because of the Resurrection, nothing human should be alien to us, even fear and dying. The life of the spirit is both serenity and struggle as we plunge into the agony and the ecstasy, the griefs and the joys of the people of the world in self-effacing devotion and service to the poor.

When we consume the bread and wine at the Eucharistic celebration, we are reminded that we are also supposed to be consumed by the God who is consuming fire, who will test us by fire to separate the gold from the dross. We are supposed to be consumed by the Divine Word, who came to set the world on fire, who was consumed by zeal for the Father’s house and who baptized with fire and the Spirit.

“We are called,” wrote Henri Nouwen, “we are blessed, we are broken, and we are fed to the world.” By eating from this bread, we become bread for everyone else, we become one with the Christ of the burnt men and women.

I pray that there will be more burnt men and women who will hear the call to make the journey into solitude and proclaim Shalom by fathoming the depths of their compassion, living among the poorest of the poor, and telling them that they are at the very center of God’s plan for salvation.

There has to be a fire burning inside of people who would like to transform the world. The theme of spiritual sacrifice and martyrdom is fused with that of fire.

Women and men whose hearts are aflame are our best hope for a sustainable future as they step into the line of fire at this perilous moment of our history.

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4 Comments

  1. Elmo Banaglorioso on

    The fire has been ignited and must be kept burning. What better way than to mobilize
    these burning flames into a dynamic movement geared to address the growing perils of social injustice, abuse of power for selfish motives, moral degradation, violation of human rights and other evils that are eroding the very foundation of our society. Only by our concerted efforts with Divine guidance can we effect the needed transformation for a better society. We need strong incorruptible leaders, who have in mind the welfare of the many and not of self-aggrandizement, to instill discipline, restore morality
    to guide us through, without relent, towards social and moral upliftment. So help us, God.

  2. Eddie de Leon on

    Very inspiring, Fr. Ben. I pray that you rreaders all decide (1) to go on a serious examination of conscience, (2) then go to confession, (3) then resolve to do only God;s will in everything they do–at home with their families, at work with their bosses and workmates, in their places of leisure, (4) and then resolve to be burnt men and women who will serve others and not only do things for themselves and achieve their egoistic desires and ambitions, including doing things only to become well from their sicknesses. For even sick people can do much good for other fellow human beings.

  3. Kung ang mga nagtuturo ng religion sa mga tao ay totoong sa dios sa taggal ng panahon ipinangangaral nila ang turo daw ng dios!bakit!!bakit! Ganito na lamang ang naging ugali ng mga tao,lalong sumasama at lalong hindi umaasa sa magagawa ng dios!
    Saan nagkulang at nagkamali ang mga nagtuturo ng religion,bakit lalong sumama! Ang mundo??naawa pa hanggang ngayon ang dios at hindi pa winawakasan ang mundo,binibigyan pa ng pagkakataon magising!!
    Paulit-ulit! Ako ang dios. Ako lang, walang dios liban sa akin!!
    Susumpain niya ang mga taong sumasamba sa idol,rebulto at mga santo!yan ay alam ng lahat!!
    Bakit ang tigasss!ng ulo ng maraming tao!

  4. Indeed, Fr. Beltran.
    Let our religious practices be the breaking of the ground for a relationship to God that is personal; in the same way as the baptism of John for the baptism of the Holy Spirit.