Stir Into Flame

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

I have a working fireplace at home, a comforting convenience in the cold, dark days of winter. It’s not used often, but mostly during the holidays or when I have visitors.

A few weeks back, when a fire had been burning for a while and was just about dead, I took a fireplace tool, poked the log until it fell apart, and then stepped back and watched the fire burst into a robust mini-inferno. Impressive, I thought, how much energy was left in that nearly-spent log.

And I also thought about the words of St. Paul to Timothy: “I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather of power and love and self-control.” (II Tim 1: 6-7) And then it occurred to me – there still must be a lot of energy in the Church too, if only we could bring the flame to life again.

In a way, the dying, smoldering log of my fireplace is an apt analogy for the Church these days. We’re confronted with scandals, the closing of churches and schools, declining Mass attendance, lack of priestly vocations, and an often unfriendly culture. And yet . . . we’ve received the gift of the Holy Spirit; we’ve been given “every spiritual blessing in the heavens.” (Eph 1: 3) What are we doing with that gift, with those blessings?

You see, even though we haven’t all been ordained a priest and bishop as Timothy was, we’ve certainly all received the very same Spirit, in abundance, beginning with our Baptism. In short, we have all the spiritual tools we need to grow in faith and bring the Church to life once again.

If only we were more excited about our faith: If we prayed more, received the sacraments devoutly, worked hard to overcome our sins, were more responsive to the needs of others, and were really eager to share our faith with others. “Do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord,” St. Paul urged Timothy. Nor should we be ashamed, or timid, or tepid in the practice of our faith. On the contrary, we should take the gift we’ve received and stir it into a flame!

Something to think about: If you could focus on just one thing to inflame your faith, to bring it to life, what would it be?