IGNITE — Do Something Radical…
Way back in the day, oh, I’m not sure, at least over 35 years ago, I was a young, Evangelical Christian, and “on fire for the Lord.” Have you ever heard that term before? Well, back then, in that paradigm, it was a popular phrase describing someone who was excited to serve God. In those days, something sparked in my heart and soul that said: “I need to be in service to the Lord.” It truly only takes a spark to get a fire going, a little friction to motivate a person out of spiritual complacency.
In one particular instruction to Timothy (2 Tm 1:6-8, 13-14), the Apostle Paul is telling him that for his ministry to be effective he’ll need to stir the embers and fan the coals. How many of you remember wood-fired stoves or fireplaces? How many of you have experienced campfires or beach bonfires? In our modern, high-tech society I’m sure there are far fewer people who are taking the time to enjoy old school diversions. Woodfire is actually quite interesting. Some of you probably remember from elementary science class that fire requires three elements: heat, fuel, and oxygen. This is often described in terms of three sides of a triangle. Remove one side and you extinguish the flame. Also, adding more of one component such as fuel or oxygen and the flames may expand exponentially.
Wood logs that have been set ablaze and have been burning for a length of time eventually consume all of the available fuel. However, stoking the fire, knocking the logs and coals around, kicking away burnt ash, exposes the surface area of the embers to more oxygen and available fuel. Also, Fanning embers that are in their later stages, and adding some kindling, or extra fuel, will reignite the flames.
So, to keep this metaphor going, if your flame of faith is to keep burning brightly it is going to need ongoing maintenance. How are the flames of your faith? What are you doing to keep the fire going? Are you using all three sides of the triangle?
Here are three components that you’ll need to keep your own fire burning: Word, Sacrament, and Prayer
Become a student of the Word. Find a parish that has an ongoing bible study and adult catechetical program. If possible find a qualified spiritual director. The word of God is the fuel side of the equation. Without delving into and inculcating the truth of scripture you may absorb a little knowledge, that like kindling, wood, hay or stubble that if they catch fire at all, will burn quickly and dissipate almost as fast, leaving a thin layer of ash and soot.
We are all familiar with the seven sacraments. We also understand the centrality that the sacramental rites of Christian initiation and especially the Eucharist play in our relationship with Christ and His Church. Yes, all Catholics are encouraged to be frequent mass attendees and recipients of the Eucharist. However, in this instance, I’m talking about something a bit more radical — making everything you do a “sacramental” moment. At a basic level, Catholics recognize sacramentals as certain objects, crosses, scapulars, icons, etc, as things that focus our attention on, and sanctify our attention for a particular time. When you focus on sanctifying more and more of your time to spiritual matters the more vibrant the flames of your own spirit will ignite. Sacramentals and sacramental moments do not confer the grace of the Holy Spirit in the way that the sacraments do, but they prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it. Sanctifying your life to Christ is the heat source of our spiritual blessings, that encourages us to enter joyfully into the spiritual battles ahead.
Pray Without Ceasing:
Prayer is our love language with the divine. Prayer breathes life into our soul and serves to give power to and ignite the flames of our spiritual boldness. “For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.”
God has given us some amazing gifts. However, like any other present that comes in neat packaging, these spiritual gifts will remain useless unless opened and actually used. When applied to our lives, the gifts of God empower us for what lies ahead in our service for Him and His people.
One touchstone of the Catholic Church is that bishops, priests and deacons are first and foremost “servants.” The primary role of the diaconate is to be servants to the needy. Priests serve the people of God in both word and sacrament. Bishops are the servants of the servants of God. However, all Christians are called to be part of that “Great Commission.”
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