By Fr. Mathias Thelen, Pastor of St. Patrick Catholic Church (Brighton, Michigan)
The mighty power of God’s love broke into my life and changed me forever. When that happens, you cannot help but want to lift Jesus higher. I was in high school, I was a self-centered, narcissistic kid, and God’s power came upon me in Adoration, and He showed me I was loved by Him. That love transformed me, and I wanted to help other people encounter Him. This love He has for us is so consuming, He’s willing to die so we might come back to Him. Let us constantly keep that before our eyes.
I never get bored seeing God break into people’s lives in big and small ways. A number of years ago, we were praying with people, and a man came over. I felt like I was praying over a brick wall. I said in my insecurity, “God do something; I can’t do anything.” Let me encourage you: God wants you in that place of powerlessness so He can be power in you. The more we try to do it ourselves, the less power we see in our lives.
I thought, “I’ve never met this guy before. Lord, what are You doing right now?”
Suddenly, I heard this voice: “Tell him Andrew is going to be fine.” I thought, “I’m not going to say that.” Nothing was happening, and it came again: “Tell him Andrew is going to be just fine.” I felt like I was between a rock and God. I could choose the nothing-happening option, or I could choose God actually maybe speaking to this person. He had his hands clenched, and I said, “I keep hearing what I think is the Father’s voice saying that Andrew is going to be fine. Does that mean anything to you?”
He grabbed my hands and said, “My son Andrew is in the hospital! I came to this service to pray to make sure that he was going to be OK.” He ran out of the church screaming, “My son’s going to be fine!”
Why do I share that? The consuming love of God knows everything about us. He wants to come to us in the midst of our suffering. He wants to minister to us. Consider all He wants to do through us. It’s powerful when we come to understand our identity and our mission as Christians.
There’s so much chaos going on around us that we can forget who we are and about his burning love. Everything Jesus does comes from love. When Jesus overturned the money changers, for instance, what looks like violence was actually love (Mt 21:12). People had turned a place of prayer and encounter, a place for offering sacrifice, into a place of self-gain—and He drove them out from righteous anger.
This is happening in the Church right now. Jesus, out of his holy love, is driving out evil and those not interested in the true worship of God. He, in his consuming fire, is purifying the body of Christ—because He loves us. God wants to burn up anything that comes between us.
He makes us his temples, places where He dwells and we can encounter Him. The purification—while a sign of judgment—is done for the sake of relationship. If we want to have a heart for the lost and compassion for those who don’t know Jesus, if we want the consuming fire of God to live within us, we must allow Jesus to purify us.
After Jesus purifies the temple, “The blind and the lame came to him in the temple and he healed them” (Mt 21:14).
He’s in the temple. He drives out those who are not interested in relationship with God—and immediately, the sick and the lame begin to come to Him, and He heals them. He must purify his Church, because it is the place for his healing and mercy to come into the world. Notice that after He does this is precisely when people experience his healing love. The more the Lord purifies the Church, the more the purity and power of the Gospel can flow through you.
We have a choice in the midst of our suffering. Do we see Jesus’ love at work, or do we just see something that causes us to be angry? Jesus wants the Church to be a place of encounter—to be his bride. That has to happen first in each of us.
The good news is that He’s not weak. He’s not a coward. He will go to the end to fight for us. That’s the burning heart of Jesus. He broke the power of death so we might be fully alive. A lot of us are suffering right now. The world needs the heart of Jesus. It needs his love and healing, and if we don’t allow that love and that power of compassion to flow in us, it will never flow through us.
Let’s pray that as He’s loved us, He can love through us. If we are willing to do anything it takes for Jesus to love in us and through us—if we give Him that yes and we persevere, not by ourselves but with a community, with people around you, He will be able to consume us. And in consuming us, He will be able to consume the world through us.