Be Spark-Throwers

June 29, 2016 | Reflections From Sr Mary

I am sure that many of you, like me, “caught fire” yesterday morning when we listened to Paul reading the quote from the book Radical Amazement


“The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of the soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others, both, are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it.”
Clarissa Pinkola Estes


Then Judy adds her own commentary:

To be spark-throwers, to send up flares, to be fierce with fire – this is what our world so desperately needs from us. Let us together claim our light so that once again all creation knows its fundamental nature and deepest truth. What a radically amazing invitation we have received.
Radical Amazement by Judy Cannato p.90

It’s not just the emotive language from both authors that captures our interest and imagination, it’s also the elements involved. There’s something about fire and sparks, light, lanterns and flares that always draw us in, fire us up and inspire us.

I think the stories surrounding the birth of John the Baptist are all about sparks and lives catching fire, light exploding, flares going up all over the place! Don’t you think that Elizabeth and Zechariah might have had lights going off in their hearts when they heard they were finally to become parents especially as the child they were conceiving was from God and would be filled with the Holy Spirit? And was there not a magnificent experience of lives catching fire when Mary set off in haste to the hill country to visit Elizabeth and finally, when John was born, we can be sure that hearts and tongues were burning not just at the birth of the child but also at the whole drama surrounding his naming and Zechariah’s sudden return of speech. These stories and later ones surrounding John the Baptist, are just as emotive and inspiring as the quotes we began with. They too beg further reading, investigation and spark gathering!

John was a wild man, a precursor; his mission was to be a spark, a flare, showing the way to the true Fire and Light who was Jesus. His work allowed Jesus to shine all the brighter and between the two cousins, flames were lit, hearts were set on fire and a Church was born!

Perhaps the message in all this for us, in these wintery times when we are in need of some sparks of warmth and inspiration, is to immerse ourselves into the stories of these Gospel characters – Elizabeth and Zechariah perhaps dancing with deLIGHT in the birth of a longed-for child; Mary and Elizabeth catching fire together as they hugged in greeting; John and Jesus sending up flares, setting hearts ablaze and causing proper matters to catch fire.

Together these Gospel characters invite us to catch the sparks they still throw down to us through the ages! Our world so desperately needs us to catch on, to be just as fierce with fire as they were, to be trail blazers. It is indeed a radically amazing invitation we have received from each of them. And just as they caught fire from one another, we too are called to catch fire from the people who are the characters in our own stories, especially from the names and faces and sparks of each of us here, we who form this community of grace, of light, of fire.

We also have the added invitation in this Year of Mercy to be “fierce in showing mercy toward others”. Fierce is a very strong word so full of vitality and energy. We know that now, more than ever before, we live in “shadowy times” so the need for us to be trail blazers, fierce in showing mercy to one another and to all whom we meet is of the “greatest necessity”.

We all know that at times we struggle to light up but once again, we can learn and take heart from our Gospel characters. Each of them no doubt struggled at times. It was in those times that they supported each other; when one was down, the fire of the other urged them on. The quote says “struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it.” So, let us, when we are down, look to others in the community, draw near to them, stretch out our hands and hearts towards them feel their warmth. Likewise, when we are feeling “on fire” with sparks shooting in all directions, let us be willing to share our warmth, our fire, our love, our time with others.

Before we finish, some of you might have some thoughts to add either from reflecting on the words Paul shared with us yesterday or perhaps from your lectio surrounding the Readings at Mass for the Birth of John the Baptist. Or you might like to think about what sparks have you experienced lately… either in your own heart or perhaps from catching fire from others? Let’s take a few quiet moments to ponder the thoughts of our hearts…

I would like to finish now with that wonderful antiphon Sr Macrina shared with us when she visited a few years back, The Lantern of my Life. We have had it before but it is well worth listening to again. I hope that it will set off a few more sparks in our hearts and minds this morning.