But who will endure the day of his coming? For he is like the refiner’s fire, or like the fuller’s lye. …He will sit refining his silver and gold in his crucible…
A crucible is a very high-intensity heat furnace where gold and silver are refined and freed of their dross. But, isn’t it an overkill, a pure exaggeration since we are talking about a 40-day-old baby, so cute, so charming?
Our reading from Hebrews (2:14-18) sheds light on this obvious discrepancy. It speaks of the fact that Jesus’ entire life was spent in obedience to the Father’s command. It also deals with the extremely high personal cost incurred by Jesus in carrying out this salvation plan which was the Father’s will from the beginning. Finally, it also covers the reality of the oneness of Jesus and all of us.
Now, if we put together the 1st (Mal 3:1-4) and 2nd (Heb 2:14-18) readings, we realize that, before being the Refiner, the Fuller, the Cleanser, Jesus put himself through the crucible…
From even before he was born he felt what it was like going through the crucible: there was no room at the inn. (cf. Luke 2:7)
Then, once born, he felt the roughness of the straw in the manger and the inconvenience of the stable. He, the King of kings knew the full extent of poverty even in the offering of the poor: a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons for the ritual at the Temple rather than the lamb that the rich could afford (cf. Luke 2:24)
That was just the beginning… obedience to the Father in all aspects of his life led him to know rejection, betrayal, hostility, horrific torture, and the cross. But through this kind of crucible, this severe personal discipline and sufferings, Jesus destroyed the one who has the power of death, the Devil…
Our being one with Jesus Christ is definitely consistent with today’s feast of this “refining” of Jesus because we do it through the Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Cross, the ultimate crucible. We partake of Jesus’ broken Body and poured Blood so that two significant things might happen: Jesus may help us whenever we are tested in our crucible and that we may endure the tests of our life with the same trust in the Father that Jesus always had, so that we can come out victorious.
We begin by looking at our life’s tests from an unusual angle. We consider the significance of the candle that we were given on the day of our baptism. It underscores our intimate union with Christ, heralded here by Simeon as a light for revelation to the Gentiles. And also: Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
The same is true of us: You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. (Matthew 5:14) Clearly then, since we are intimately one with Christ; since we have been told that we are the light of the world; since we were given the light at our baptism, we too are meant to be a light for revelation to the Gentiles.
It is very simple. At times we will be called to speak out boldly when we would rather keep quiet. Other times we would have to take a stand and hold our ground on important issues of life and death. Other times we will be singled out by the liberal bullies, or ridiculed or accused of being obsolete, passé, intolerant, and (their favorite epithet) racist, along with all the other labels that our adversaries keep using whenever addressing us with contempt.
In case you haven’t noticed it, we are at war against the forces of darkness, the forces of the one who has the power of death, the Devil… Where shall I start listing the fronts on which we must defend decency, common sense, human dignity, and especially the children who are our future, including those still forming in their mothers’ womb?
The light of Christ that we received at our baptism cannot remain a vague ceremony, maybe barely recorded by some faded photographs, if we were baptized as infants. If we are tempted to stay put in the partial shadow of disengagement and inaction, we might want to pause and reflect on this profound statement attributed to Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
It seems the logical conclusion those who take their baptismal commitment seriously can reach as they keep in mind also a powerful statement made by Jesus: Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father. (Matthew 10:32-33)
Everyone, including the forces of evil, will realize that we are disciples of Jesus Christ and that we acknowledge him before others if we defeat evil with the weapon of our concrete and factual loving (cf. John 13:35)
But, if we have already done some concrete loving and courageous acknowledging of Christ, we must have noticed that the light entrusted to us is challenged at every turn. And winds of dissension or cowardice, or indifference, or fear will keep blowing all around it. Yet, we have Christ who shares always, continuously, in our predicament, in our mission and in our future of glory.
We can therefore both understand why the question was asked of who will be able to withstand the day of the Lord’s coming, the day of his refining us through the crucible and also understand that with Christ on our side we shall prevail on ALL COUNTS.