“Fan into a flame the gift that God has given you!” In the second reading, St Paul reminds us of the great gifts conferred on every Christian; gifts too often lying dormant in our souls through fear and inaction. We must revive the fire that is in us; for it is not a “Spirit of timidity” we were given, but a “Spirit of power, of love and of self-control.” Power, love and self-control: our power is found precisely in love, and yet this love is not an affair of passing emotions but a love committed and strengthened through repeated choices, so as to become a real force for the good.
The Gospel drives it home. Faith is not a matter of sitting and passively waiting for the Lord to change us: it grows and becomes power precisely in his service. He values us too much to allow us to simply receive without giving also in our turn. “Faith without works”, St James said, “is dead”, and St Augustine will say that if God created you without your cooperation, you cannot be saved the same way! How could you? Our salvation is not something external to us, which we would try and pay back with our service. You could no more pay God back for saving you than you could for creating you: we are all “unprofitable servants” in this regard. No, but to become the person you are meant to be through serving Him with all your gifts – more generous, more loving, purer of heart, braver and stronger -this is to be saved right to the end, and this is the greatest gift God wants to give you. How is it that we are so slow in learning it? Every time we give our time and energy to God he is more at work than we are, and it is we who receive.
The irony is that the whole world dreams of heroism, even of self-sacrifice. The films we watch are all about this. Super-heroes, war-stories: we pay money in order to live vicariously like heroes for a passing hour, and meanwhile we let our own lives drift away. And yet every single Christian can live a life of true heroism, and they need no special circumstances or super powers to do so! Just within the little sphere of your own life and of your Parish there are unlimited possibilities of goodness and growth. Don’t let your life slip away! You don’t know all the capacities that are in you for good: It is only Christ who can unfold them. Put your faith into action then: “fan into a flame the gift that God has given you!”