To Make Fire
There is the old story of the fire maker.*
Once upon a time, many years ago, in a place not too different from where we are now, a wise and loving woman had special knowledge. She knew how to make fire.
This woman’s compassion for those in the towns around her was legendary. It hurt her to see the people she cared for be cold and have no way to cook food. So she came down from the hills where she lived and went to the nearest town.
She called those around her to observe. And with a combination of different tools, she built a great fire. It was a fire that could warm many bodies, bring light to the night, and help to sustain and feed the people there. And the town rejoiced and thanked their great teacher for her great gift.
The woman rested well that night and enjoyed the kindness of the people she had helped. But the leaders of the town watched and saw how adored the great teacher was for her gift. People were asking if she could stay and be the town’s teacher. And the leaders were jealous and afraid.
When evening came again, she called those around her to gather once more. She showed them the tools she offered to make fire and taught the leaders how to use them. And with them she made the fire even bigger and brighter than the one the night before. She made a gift of the tools to the town leaders and said she’d be leaving in the morning.
But the town leaders, jealous and suspicious of the attention the teacher received, poisoned her. And before anyone could notice what had happened the leaders took the teacher’s body away and hid it.
In the morning, the leaders praised and extolled the teacher. They wrote stories about the teacher. They sang songs about her. They wept and they cried along with everyone else who missed the teacher.
And the town leaders took the tools the teacher gave them to make fire and placed them in a special place of honor in the center of town. And then for years, and then for centuries, the people of the town revered and worshiped the tools that made the fire. They sang the songs and told the stories of the the fire and the great teacher.
But no one made fire ever again.
The work of faith is rarely about the words we remember or how much we praise something. The work of faith is often about what we are teaching others and how we care for those in our towns, in our villages. And the work of faith is always about making the fire we need to see better, to be warmed, and to be fed more fully.
May your fires burn bright in these times to light the way for others to compassion, justice, and joy.
And may it ever be so,
Rev. T. J.
*This is adapted from a story often told by Fr. Anthony DeMello, S.J.