Sunday, October 6, 2013

Fan the Flames of Faith (27.C)

Have you ever tried to build a fire with wood that wasn’t quite dry? It’s tough going. You pile on the kindling, but fifteen minutes later all you’ve got is smoldering logs.

But with a fireplace bellows—or good lungs, if you’re making a campfire—you can blow on those logs until all at once they catch fire and the flames leap up.

The same is true when the blazing fire you’d built has burned down to embers. Fan those embers and you’ve got a real fire again.

This is the image St. Paul is using in our second reading when he reminds Timothy to “rekindle” the gift of God he already has. Fan it into a flame, the Apostle says. You already have what you need to be a Christian leader, but your gifts have burned down into glowing coals when they should be Pentecostal tongues of fire.

In today’s Gospel, the Apostles ask Jesus to increase their faith, because they want Jesus to do the work, which is fair enough because He hasn’t yet sent them the Holy Spirit. But from the day of Pentecost onwards, Paul’s words to Timothy are the answer to that prayer: rekindle what you have already received, the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Of course it’s not just the apostles who pray “increase our faith.” Which one of us doesn’t feel that our faith falls short sometimes? Who doesn’t envy the person in the next pew who seems so much more prayerful than we are?

So St. Paul speaks to us, too. Or maybe he asks us a question. What have you done to fan into a flame the gifts of God you received in baptism and confirmation?

This is a very concrete question for every one of us. And we can make it more concrete still by asking ourselves some questions. If you are a man, what did you do yesterday? Because if you missed the Man Alive! conference, you missed a mighty wind of God’s Spirit that would have rekindled the faith of a weary soul.

If you are a woman, do you have the archdiocesan women’s conference on your calendar for next month?

Did you pray yesterday? Have you gone to confession recently? Did you do any spiritual reading in the past week, or check out a good Catholic blog?

Were you one of those who came to the first night of our course on prayer and contemplation on Wednesday? Fr. Elton Fernandes sure rekindled for me much I already knew but need to practice.

Did you find time last week to do some act of love that didn’t come easy? Did you do some small penance on Friday?

The Alpha course that begins tomorrow night is a way to share the Gospel with someone who may not know Christ. Sharing our faith is definitely a great way to rekindle it. But even an active Catholic will find that the course can revive the power of the central truths he or she already believes.

On Thursday night, St. Stephen's Parish in Lynn Valley begins the Life in the Spirit Seminar. The eight-week seminar is a sure path to revitalized faith in Jesus Christ and a personal experience of the Holy Spirit’s power.

In all these ways we invite the Spirit himself to send gusts of grace to inflame our hearts and to awaken the gifts we have already received in baptism and confirmation.

For my own sake as well as for yours, I am glad that the readings today offer such a practical challenge: because the Christian who is not on fire is something of a contradiction. In the Book of Revelation (3:15) the Lord laments those who are “lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold.” And in the Gospels, St. John the Baptist promises that Jesus will come to baptize “with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

Yes, we do pray that the Lord will increase our faith. But he wants us to use the gifts we have—by discovering them, developing them, and displaying them.

If there’s one thing I hope for as the end of the Year of Faith approaches, it’s that my faith and yours will burn brighter—hotter—than it did at the beginning. I pray that the gifts of power and love and self-discipline that we already have will be guarded as a treasure but also invested in daily life.

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