It’s been a little over a week since the gruesome death of George Floyd occurred – in the days that have followed we’ve seen people’s outrage being co-opted by voices of lawlessness with looting and rioting spreading in cities across the nation. Many commentators have asked how did things get so out of hand so quickly. There’s a lot of reasons that can go into that very complicated question. But on a certain level – you can see the effect that this one police officer’s reckless, murderous actions had on this poor man – has in a sense affected the entire nation.
Part of the reason that came to mind as I was reading the first scripture passage from Paul to Timothy is because of those words “stir into flame.” We’re frightened seeing the flames of violence, of racism, of terror spreading – and we see how widespread those things have spread. And in all honesty – the bad actors are few in number comparatively speaking to this population of over 325 million people in our country. Most people are peace loving, freedom loving individuals who want what’s best for themselves and those closest to them. Yet we see the effect of when evil is being “stired” into flame in dramatic and violent ways.
Why do we as Catholic Christians not believe that the opposite is true? The feast of Pentecost which we celebrated Sunday recounts how 11 apostles, the Blessed Mother did in fact change the world in countless ways spreading the blessings, the favor, the love of Jesus Christ to the very ends of the earth. That the Gospel of Christ in fact transformed creation in ways they could never have imagined.
Paul encouraging Timothy to “stir into flame that gift of God that you have…” is meant to be a reminder to us – not just of the potential each of us carries within us – but the responsibility we have as followers of Jesus Christ. Paul is saying to Timothy, and to each of us – you who know the good news… you who have received that gift – it is now your responsibility to pour out your very selves at God’s service – utilizing your unique gifts and abilities; maximizing the talents and blessings you’ve been endowed with to continue with this work which has eternal consequences – making known that death and these evil voices and agents of death do not have the final say. Jesus has destroyed the forces and agents of darkness, has destroued death, and brought life and immortality to light. How can we quell the flames of violence by the fire of the Holy Spirit?