Monday, July 16, 2012

Strike While the Iron's Hot!

Jesus began to reproach the towns
where most of his mighty deeds had been done,
since they had not repented.
"Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!
For if the mighty deeds done in your midst
had been done in Tyre and Sidon,
they would long ago have repented in sackcloth and ashes....

            There’s an old saying: “Strike while the iron is hot.” In order for iron to be shaped, it has to be put into a fiery hot furnace. This helps to make the iron malleable. Only when it is hot can it be shaped into something beautiful. So, the iron is taken out of the furnace and the blacksmith immediately begins to hammer on the hot iron, molding it into what it was meant to be. If the iron is not crafted immediately, it becomes cold and hard and the blacksmith won’t be able to mold the iron into what the blacksmith wants it to be. He will have to stick the iron back into the fire.
            In today’s reading, Jesus is not only declaring a kind of condemnation upon the people, but he is also expressing a lament: the people have heard Jesus, been on fire with his words and actions, but they refuse to be changed by them. He laments because they are missing their opportunity to be changed into something beautiful. But why do they simply revel in the fire instead of being changed? Because hammering iron is hard work—much harder than simply sticking it in the furnace. It is easier to become on fire for the faith and even to feel sorrow; it much more difficult to do the work necessary to change iron into lasting beauty.
We only have so many opportunities to be changed. All of us have experienced a moment where we are “on fire” for the faith. Like the iron, we were hot and ready to be shaped. Maybe it was when we were in RCIA; maybe it was when we encountered a death; or when we decided to come to daily Mass; a retreat; maybe it was when we were at a conference or heard an amazing homily that really hit home. Whatever it was, there was an opportunity to be shaped. And it was then that the hard work needed to be done.
            How easy it is to grow cold and hard. We can quickly miss our chance to be shaped into something beautiful. And when that happens, we have to be thrown back into the fire. And who knows when that will happen again.
            Maybe it’s now. Maybe there is still a little warmth in you yet. Now’s your chance. Now’s the time for the hammering. What resolution did you make in the past that you now need to keep? What sin do you need to put away? What virtue do you need to grow in? And what is the concrete step that you’re going to take today having received God in the Eucharist? This Eucharist is that fiery furnace. The hammering awaits as soon as we emerge from Mass.
            Woe to us if we do not change today!
Strike while the iron’s hot!

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