2 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14, Luke 17:5-10
Most of the letters of Paul involve a continuation of the instructions he gave to a particular community. They also include correction of teachings and practices that Paul heard had crept into the church, and they encourage the community to be faithful and to continue to grow in their experience of Christ love. The letter to Timothy is different in that it is not addressed to a church, but to a person, Timothy. It is a letter that is personal and full of encouragement.
The letter seems to indicate that Timothy was struggling with his vocation as a missionary. He had accompanied Paul on several of his journeys and now he is on his own. Paul exhorts Timothy to recall the great experience he had with the imposition of hands. Using Paul’s image we can say that Timothy had been on fire with the Holy Spirit, but now something is happening that has him discouraged. Paul’s advice to Timothy is that in the midst of this time when the fire has diminished not to let it go out, instead “stir into flame” the fire of the Holy Spirit that is within him. Timothy should not allow disappointments to take away his zeal to witness. Paul was showing Timothy that with God comes the strength to endure hardship and suffering, and to do so with joy.
In the Gospel when the Apostles asked Jesus to “increase our faith,” Jesus responds that great things can be done with even a little faith. He makes his point by using the analogy of a mustard seed. As small as it is it grows into something large and beautiful. All of us have bad days and bad weeks, and some of us might even have bad years. We might think that we have little faith and are weak in faith. We might feel that everything is going wrong, that even God seems to have abandoned us. Whatever the source discouragement and disappointment can slowly separate us for God by leading us to question where God is in the midst of our struggles.
We might cry out to God, “increase my faith,” hoping for a new infusion of God’s grace, but it is important to keep in mind that even the seemingly little faith that moved us to cry out is enough to move mountains. It might not seem that way, but with God all things are possible. At times like this we benefit in taking Paul’s words to heart. It is good to recall the beauty of the gift of faith and God’s presence we have experienced. We have the choice to either allow the difficult times and situations imprison us and take break our spirit, or to continue to live in the freedom of God’s children. These are times for us stir into flame the gift of faith that we received at Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation, and at other deep spiritual moments of our lives. Just like Timothy, God has given us the spirit of power, love and self-control. These gifts help us to rise above disappointment and discouragement, and to be witnesses of Christ’s victory.
The teaching of Jesus and the advice to Timothy helps us recapture our faith and to live it with renewed zeal. May we not allow the fire of faith to go out in our lives, but rather, may we have the grace and determination to “stir into flame the gift of God,” each of us has received as members of Christ’s Church. May we always be renewed in the fire of God’s love and permit it to burn brightly within us.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.