February 2013

Fire and all it brings to mind

We may not be on the frontline of fire fighting, or of flood cleaning, but we have daily opportunities of being on mission in our homes and neighbourhoods, writes Good Samaritan Sister Margaret Keane.

BY Margaret Keane SGS

A small girl was heard to say recently that she was “all fired up and ready to go” when asked how she liked the fact that she was soon to start school. She was prepared and excited. Her new shoes had been worn a few times to prevent blisters, her school bag was almost packed and her uniform was hanging ready to wear. Above all she was anticipating all that lay ahead of her.

That is one way that fire is used.

You will recall that from mid January we were confronted by images of raging fires in many parts of our country, all being fought by brave men and women. Their commitment to the task was, as always, simply amazing.

I have warm and cherished memories of the open fire in our small home. I had the pleasure of living in our Good Samaritan community at Belgrave, Victoria, where we had an open fire. When that house was sold and we relocated to the next suburb of Tecoma, again there was the warmth and light of an open fire. Bringing in kindling and wood was very much worth the effort.

What can be more conducive to good conversations, robust debates, problem solving and sharing of stories than a group around a safe fire?

Ash Wednesday, recently on our liturgical calendar, leading us in to the season of Lent, has hideous memories of death and destruction by fire. I vividly remember the 1983 Ash Wednesday fires that devastated communities in Victoria and South Australia. However, we are reminded, as we are signed with rough ash, that we are created to repent and spread the Good News. We remember that we are dust and will return to dust. Australian theologian and priest, Denis Edwards speaks of our creation as being from stardust (Jesus and the Natural World, 2012).

At the Easter vigil we create fires in and around our churches as significant elements in our celebration of the resurrection of Jesus after his three days in the tomb. On the great Church feast of Pentecost we pray that the Spirit will come in the fullness of sacred fire as the Spirit did at the first Pentecost.

Then we can consider the gentle fire of candles in so many settings giving light, warmth, comfort and ambient beauty. Candles enhance our prayer spaces. In times of grief, roadside deaths and national calamities we see many candlelight vigils. The moving sight, at many Anzac dawn services, of fire leaping from the cauldrons brings tears and pride to many. The fire attracts people to gather close to the source of warmth as the morning is often cold.

Fire can be all of the above at the same time.

What are your images of fire? For me, the Gospel reference – “I have come to cast fire on the earth” (Luke 12:49) – springs to mind. It is an invitation to be on fire for the Gospel message of spreading the peace and Good News of Jesus.

What is the ‘fire in the belly’ calling each to be for others this day? For our volunteer and professional fire fighters it is evident that they have one mission and it has the good of others as the focus.

We have watched that other element of nature, water, pouring over vast expanses of the land. It too, is a strong Christian symbol from our Baptism to the blessing of our coffin and place of burial. From Baptism we are sent to be Gospel bearers of peace.

We may not be on the frontline of fire fighting, or of flood cleaning, but we have daily opportunities of being on mission in our homes and neighbourhoods.

Margaret Keane

Good Samaritan Sister Margaret Keane worked for many years as an educator in secondary schools in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria. Now retired, she lives in Melbourne.

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