Fr Bob writes : “I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands.” So begins our second reading for this Sunday’s Mass. The “gift of God” that St Paul is referring to is the Holy Spirit which we receive at our baptism. Many Catholics think that since they have already received the Holy Spirit, they don’t need to think about him anymore. But, in fact, St Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:18 that we should go on “being filled with the Spirit.” Firstly, because although we have received the Spirit at baptism, for many Catholics this gift has remained at the “dormant” level, rather like a pot of water which is put on the stove on a back burner, and left to quietly simmer. The Spirit wants to be much more than that in our lives. He wants to be in us “a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline”, to quote our second reading at Mass. The Spirit wants to fill us with the love and the power of God so that we are “on fire” with the desire to share our faith with others. To use our analogy above, the fire underneath the pot of water on the stove needs to be “turned up” to boiling point.
Secondly, we need to go on being filled up with the Spirit, because we “leak.” We leak the Spirit. We leak the Spirit through our sin and our emotional wounds and the sheer struggle to live the Christian life in a post-Christian, often anti-Christian, world. No surprise here. Even the apostles, despite receiving such an awesome experience of Holy Spirit empowering at Pentecost in Acts of the Apostles chapter 2 are, a couple of chapters later in Acts chapter 4, praying to God to renew them with a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit because they have just been subjected to severe persecution from the Jewish religious authorities and they are “wilting” spiritually. And God responds by renewing the gift of the Spirit within them so they are filled with a new spirit of boldness in proclaiming the gospel.
When St Paul urges Timothy, his spiritual “son”, to rekindle the gift of the Holy Spirit within him, he does so because it seems that Timothy is being intimidated by older members of the community, since he is himself rather young and inexperienced. So Paul reminds Timothy, somewhat forcefully, that he did not receive a spirit of “cowardice” (some translate this word “timidity”) but “rather a spirit of power and love and self-discipline.” We all, even the best and most committed and dedicated of us need a regular refreshing of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
This coming Thursday evening, at the Life in the Spirit seminar, the participants at the seminar will be prayed for to receive just such a fresh outpouring. Please keep them in your prayers during this coming week, because they will be subjected to fierce pressures from the devil, who will try hard to “steal, kill and destroy” this gift from them and in them (John 10:10). And, even if you are not attending the seminars, I urge you on a daily basis to pray for a fresh ‘rekindling” of the power of the Holy Spirit within you also. “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful, and enkindle within them the fire of your love.”