Skip to main content

We have some beautiful property here, and I was just kind of foraging in the woods and found this stick today. We hear in the gospel or in the second reading that we are called to stir into flame the gifts God has given us. To stir into flame the gifts that God has given to us. That means we have some obligation and have to take some action in our lives for the Holy Spirit and the gifts to work in our lives. We have to do something to stir these gifts into flame. 

That’s what I’m going to talk about today; how do we do that? How do we stir these gifts into flame? First, it is very important that you realize that when you were baptized you were given a candle and probably one of your godparents held the candle and the priest said, “Receive the Light of Christ.” The priest then gave you or your godparents the candle and then after that he said, “May this candle be kept burning brightly, free from sin.” So, that was the prayer: “May this candle be kept burning brightly.” 

Now that candle is carried with you; it’s symbolic of the Light of Christ that is carried with you all throughout your life until you end up right here at your funeral, and at your funeral in front of the candle is the Paschal candle, the Easter candle. That candle leads you through all of your life. But something even deeper in us was given to us at our baptism. A candle can be blown out right?  Well, there is something that when we were baptized, and we were baptized into Christ, we were given this fire in our hearts. That’s where we get the Sacred Heart; we are given this fire. 

Now a fire does need to be tended to. When a fire goes out, all you have are the embers. But here’s the thing, even if your fire goes out in life from time to time, there will always be an ember deep within you that never goes out and so never get discouraged if you find your life not on fire or you feel like you don’t have that flame alive in your heart. That ember is still there, but it needs to stir and be stirred into flame. 

Today, I would like to discuss some practical ways to do that. So, in the mass series I have, the first one that we have is what I call the 5 P’s of prayer. This has to do with the mass and in your life, the many ways that you could stir into flame those gifts that God has given to you. The first P of prayer is Preparation. What that means is that we prepare to experience God in some way. When a couple gets married, they prepare for the wedding, and they also prepare for their honeymoon. So, they know what they will do right after getting married. The same is true for us and our lives; when we want to experience God, we prepare for that.  They used to say to us in the seminary that if you come to mass on time, you’re late.  The idea is that we come early to prepare ourselves, and especially in this parish, some of that preparation is just talking to the Body of Christ that is gathered around us. We also have the Chapel where you can go and pray for a few moments. I love that before every mass; we have that moment of silence where we allow ourselves to be prepared for mass.  

So, every Sunday we can do some kind of preparation. The church has a long-standing tradition; one way of preparation is fasting, so we fast one hour before receiving the Eucharist.  We do this so that we can in some way prepare ourselves to receive the Eucharist at mass.  But as we go through this mass series, there are going to be a lot of different parts of the mass, whether it be the prayer at the beginning where you bring your hearts and offer yourself, or whether it be the penitential Rite where you ask God for the forgiveness of sins. We must come to mass prepared for it because if we are not, the mass just happens quickly, and we haven’t entered into it or engaged in it.  In our lives, too, outside of mass, there has to be preparation for stirring that fire, and I want you to think about your heart right now or your coals in there. Are they burning? Are they hot? Are you on fire? What’s that like right now? Does it need to be stirred up in some way, and if it needs to be stirred up in some way, you’ve got to do some preparation. 

We must think, ‘Okay, God, what can I do to help stir my heart back into the fire.’ This preparation could be just thinking about that. You know, maybe it’s increasing your prayer, maybe it’s making some kind of retreat, maybe it’s spending some time in Eucharistic Adoration, or maybe it’s confessing.  You prepare just by thinking about that. Maybe it’s just preparing for mass and saying, “Lord, when I come to mass this Sunday, can you please set my heart on fire?” And we do some preparation.  

There was a Jesuit priest, Father Bob Welch, with who I made a retreat, my first eight-day retreat, and he talked about this preparation in terms of a couple.  He said prayer is like this, so if you spend some time in prayer during the day, you think about it ahead of time. When am I going to pray? You kind of plan it, you know, so you plan your day, so prayer fits somewhere. and not only do you prepare by picking a time, you think beforehand about what you will pray with. If you just go to prayer without preparation, you might spend that whole time flipping through the Bible, trying to find a spiritual book, or thinking about what you will do.  

So, I should spend some time preparing myself during my Holy hours, my ideal Holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament, praying with scripture and having a passage, usually the one with the Sunday readings or one of the daily readings. I found that if I prepare with that reading earlier in the day, I think about it all day so that when I go to pray, I just enter into it more naturally and beautifully. The analogy he (Father Welch) used is there is a couple, they’re married, have kids, the husbands goes off to work, but they got a babysitter, and that night they’re going to have a good time out and a good time when they come back. So, in the morning, when the husband’s leaving for work, he just looks at his wife and says, “I can’t wait for tonight,” They give each other a kiss, and he goes off to work.  What do you think that guy is thinking about all day?  Coming back to his wife that evening. So that’s what preparation is for us. It’s a preparation for this encounter with God.  

The second P is Place, where we have a place where we can go to pray. We’re blessed to have this beautiful church, and I know it used to be a school building, and now we get to be in this beautiful church. This is our place to pray, and knowing that we have a place to go to and pray helps stir that flame and facilitate the encounter with God. So, we have this place for mass on Sunday, but I think it’s important that you all have a place where you can pray on your own.  If you don’t know the code to get in here, you can come here anytime and pray before the Blessed Sacrament. But sometimes you can’t get to church. Do you have a place in your home where you can pray? Traditionally, that’s been like an altar for some families or having a prayer chair or a prayer corner. Even in the rectory, I have a prayer chair that I love to sit in, and I have icons around that; my Bible is right next to it; I light a candle. I have a place to go to pray. Ninety percent of praying and stirring that flame is just going to the place. It’s like going to the gym. If you go to the gym, you will probably work out, but if you don’t go to that place, it will not happen. And so that’s why it’s so important that we gather in this place every Sunday as the Body of Christ; this is our sacred place to pray.

The third P is Posture. So, what we do with our bodies helps us encounter God. So, during the mass, traditionally, we stand in awe before the gospel. We kneel before the consecration and sit when we’re receiving and hearing God’s word. Then the 4th traditional type of posture is prostration, where we lay on the floor. I like to do that before the Blessed Sacrament, to lay our whole bodies on the floor and give ourselves to God; it is a very powerful form of surrender.  I had a wise spiritual priest, Father McCreery, once said to me that if you’re ever doubting God and feel like you can’t pray, just get on your knees, and the very act of kneeling down is going to help us realize with our body and humble ourselves to pray before God.  

The fourth P is Presence. So, to realize that we are in the presence of God, during the Eucharist, we encounter him in four ways, that gathered assembly that I talked about before, so you are, and we are the body of Christ. So just our being here together helps us realize God’s Presence. Next would be hearing the word of God, and we hear the word of God in Sacred Scriptures, so every single word that comes from the scriptures, from the Psalms and the Eucharistic Prayers, God’s speaking to us. The third is from the priest. As a priest, I stand in the person of Christ, in Persona Christi and here and then finally, and most importantly in the Eucharist, so at the consecration and when we receive the body of Christ, experience Him. So, there are many ways to be present and experience God at Mass. 

And then, finally, the last P is a passage. If you were praying at home, you might pray with the scripture passage or with nature, but when we are at mass, we want to listen to the word of God, and passage means to pass from life to death, to pass to the other realm. When we come to mass, we pass into heaven. So, tend to your hearts. realize that our hearts need to be stirred from time to time and stirred into flame. How is your heart? Is it on fire, or is it an ember? I invite you today to find one way to practically do something to stir your heart into flame.