To 'unleash' the love of Jesus, we must set our own hearts ablaze

A seminarian tends to the Easter fire in the plaza of the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament at the start of the Easter vigil on April 19. (James Silvestri | Special to Detroit Catholic)

Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron has urged the Archdiocese of Detroit to “unleash the Gospel.” I was recently pondering what it means to “unleash” the Gospel, the good news of our salvation in Jesus Christ.

“Unleash” seems to give the image of a pet owner taking his dog off the leash and letting it run freely. It reminds me, too, of Jesus’ command for Lazarus to be “unbound” after He raised him from the dead. There is a certain sense of releasing the Gospel from the bonds and chains with which it has been fettered due to our own sinfulness and lukewarmness.

My students have recently been studying the Gospel of Mark, and I have asked them to look for the word “immediately.” St. Mark uses this word quite frequently in his Gospel. He speaks often of healings happening immediately at Jesus’ word or touch. But his use of the word “immediately” also indicates the urgency of Jesus’ mission and of His sacrifice for our salvation. Jesus is constantly, “immediately” seeking to pour out Himself for love of the Father and of us.

Contrast this with our own attitude. How often are we urgently compelled to pour out ourselves for love of the Lord and of those He desires to come to know Him? Or how often do we shrink back, hoping — or even assuming — that someone else will take that initiative? Do we really live like we want to be the great saints He made us to be? Or do we act as though heaven is guaranteed us? Do we strive for greatness in love of God, or do we convince ourselves that we are doing “just enough”? 

In her Diary, St. Faustina describes a time when Jesus explained to her how He feels about our lukewarmness: “… lukewarm souls who have just enough warmth to keep them alive … I cannot stand them because they are neither good nor bad” (Diary, 1702). After all, this lukewarm approach to life would not only affect that person’s relationship with the Lord. The example given by a Christian whose life has not truly been changed by Christ is a sad one indeed. And each one of us sinners is guilty at times of getting in the way of the message of the Gospel, of effacing the image of Christ. We can do this by our lack of fervor — by sins of omission through failing to do good — as well as by sins of commission through actively doing evil.

Jesus said, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” (Luke 12:49). Let us respond to His urgency with an urgency of our own. Let us “unleash the Gospel” so that we may burn with the fire of divine love, enlivening not only our own relationship with Him but also the whole world. St. Catherine of Siena said, “If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world on fire.” May we always desire and earnestly seek to spread the fire of the truth of His love by being ablaze ourselves.

Sr. Mary Martha Becnel is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.