Today’s second reading comes from Saint Paul’s second letter to Timothy. Its opening chapter contains much practical inspiration for all Christians on the theme of mission; it describes the gift of the missionary vocation and provides specific advice on how to actively engage in mission.
With evident emotion and intensity, Paul speaks forcefully to Timothy: “Stir into flame the gift of God”! Kindle it afresh! Keep it in full flame! The fire must constantly burn at full force! A truly expressive image of mission and the missioner!
Ordinary Image. Allow your imagination to create the scene of a street vendor, who vigorously fans the charcoal embers, so that they will glow and produce heat to roast the corn or barbecue the chicken. Such is the image of the missioner, the “flame-fanner”!
Baptismal Commission. We all have received a special gift, the fire of the Holy Spirit, through our baptism. Paul had both baptized as well as “laid hands” on Timothy; he reminds Timothy (and all of us) that our baptism needs repeated strengthening. The exercise of the gift is not automatic; it needs constant revitalization. In a word: “Stir into flame the gift of God.” Develop a more lively sense of mission. Allow the fire of the Holy Spirit of Pentecost to burn brightly—in all the unique situations we encounter each day.
Church-in-Mission. We are a missionary Church, “missionary by nature” in the thought of Vatican II (Ad Gentes 2). The Church is to be “a community aflame with missionary zeal to make Jesus known, loved and followed” (Ecclesia in Asia 19a). Is this true or are these empty words? Has the flame of mission become a smoldering, dying ember?
Profound Insight. I love a beautiful quote by the German theologian, Emil Brunner. He insightfully noted: “The Church exists by mission as fire exists by burning.” The essence of fire is in the burning. One may have wood, newspaper, kerosene, and matches, but fire is only fire when the burning is activated. We are truly and authentically Church only when we are actively engaged in the mission of evangelization.
Dynamic Mission. Fan the flame of mission! Keep the fire burning brightly! Founders of
Religious Congregations have often used the “fire” image. Saint Anthony Mary Claret noted: “One who burns with the fire of divine love … works to inflame others with the fire of God’s love.” Saint Ignatius of Loyola often repeated: “Ite, Inflammate Omnia. Go, set the world on fire!”
Every Christian is challenged: Fan the Flame of Mission—in your own heart as well as in the hearts of other Christians. Realize that: “A fire can only be lit by something that is itself on fire” (Ecclesia in Asia 23b). Mission is all about igniting and spreading fire (cf. Lk 12:49). Let us implore the Holy Spirit to enkindle anew the Pentecostal “tongues of fire” in our hearts!
James H. Kroeger, M.M.
Prayer for 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Spirit of the all-loving, living God,
fan to flames the fire of faith
you first kindled within my heart and soul
when you claimed me as your own
at my baptism and throughout my life.
Let not the cold embers of my past
nor present disappointments overshadow
the burning brightness of your presence.
Fill my empty heart with renewed zeal
to share your love and your truth
with everyone I meet, no less with
my neighbor than with strangers living
a world away. Help me share the spark
of your love with everyone I meet
that they too might set the entire world ablaze
with undying love for you.
I offer you my words, however few, and
my actions however insignificant
as my sacrifice of praise to shatter
the darkness of this world with
the blazing glory of your mercy
you, who live, love and create
as a holy Trinity of unquenchable grace.
Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M.M.
By Fr. Joseph Veneroso. M.M.