It’s interesting, Christ coming, as he put it in Luke 12:49-50, “to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled.”
He was not speaking of burning down the physical earth — priests reminded us during that reading last week — but, with His saints, to set it aflame with His Holy Spirit.
Did not the Holy Ghost manifest on Pentecost as flames of fire?
And thus we have the expression: on fire for the Lord.
It is an emotion. It is a spiritual fervor. It is the energy of exuberance, which comes from the most powerful prayer: prayer from the heart.
So, it didn’t exactly sound like an “end-times” sort of thing.
Yet, there is this fact: fire also figures into prophecies. During the events at Akita, Japan, when a statue of the Madonna wept 101 times, a deaf nun heard these words:
“If men do not repent and better themselves, the Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all humanity. It will be a punishment greater than the deluge, such as one will never have seen before. Fire will fall from the sky and will wipe out a great part of humanity, the good as well as the bad, sparing neither priests nor faithful. The survivors will find themselves so desolate that they will envy the dead. The only arms which will remain for you will be the Rosary and the Sign left by My Son. Each day recite the prayers of the Rosary. With the Rosary, pray for the Pope, the bishops, and priests.”
That was fifty years ago last month, on October 13, 1973:
If we accept this prediction — which had initial episcopal approval, but also has since found controversy — fire from Heaven is not always the metaphoric or spiritual kind but rather, quite literal.
Fire can fall from the sky, as it does right now in the Middle East. Fire can come from the sun. Fire can come from a comet. Fire can come from a forest, or volcano. There are invisible “fires” — forces — across the universe. There is the fire of plague: fever. There is of course the fire of nuclear war.
Which brings us to the great Saint Padre Pio, who bore the wounds of Crucifixion on hands, side, and feet and who, when asked about the future, said, “Can’t you see the fire?”
And there is Elijah the prophet.
In biblical lore and in many cultures, fire represents Divine presence, purification, judgment, and awe-inspiring power. Through the narrative of Elijah, fire serves as both a literal and metaphorical testament to the true God’s might in contrast to false deities.
Perhaps the most dramatic and well-known episode involving Elijah and fire is the contest at Mount Carmel, narrated in 1 Kings 18. Israel, under the rule of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, had turned to worship the Canaanite deity Baal. In response to the Israelites’ apostasy, Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal to a contest to determine the true God.
The challenge was straightforward: Two altars were set up, one for Baal and one for the God of Israel. The deity that answered by sending fire from heaven to consume the offering would be recognized as the true God. Despite their fervent rituals and invocations, the prophets of Baal failed to elicit any response.
In contrast, after Elijah repaired the altar of the Lord using twelve stones (representing the twelve tribes of Israel) and drenched the offering in water, God answered by sending flames that consumed not only the offering but the water, stones, and even the soil around the altar.
A warning to the pagans, idols, and false altars of our own era.
[resources: video of prophecy retreat]
[Footnote from the mail: “The modern day prophets of Baal can create artificial fire from heaven using DEW’s (directed energy weapons).”]