Lin Weeks Wilder

Lin Weeks Wilder

Books, Christianity, confession, conversion, faith, Gospel, Gratitude, Happiness, heaven/hell, My Name is Saul, New Testament, sacraments, Virtues

Stir Into Flame

stir into flame
Cooking flaming wok with vegetables in the commercial kitchen. High quality photography.

Stir into flame

Saint Paul’s Letter to Timothy from last week’s Christian liturgy feels directed to each of the 8.1 billion living souls in this June of 2024. Although there’s controversy about authorship and dates of these letters, orthodox concensus declares it as Paul’s last letter. He writes to his successor in Ephesus, from prison.

It certainly reads as last words, doesn’t it?

Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God
for the promise of life in Christ Jesus,
to Timothy, my dear child:
grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father
and Christ Jesus our Lord.

I am grateful to God,
whom I worship with a clear conscience as my ancestors did,
as I remember you constantly in my prayers, night and day.

For this reason, I remind you to stir into flame
the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.
For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice
but rather of power and love and self-control.
So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord,
nor of me, a prisoner for his sake;
but bear your share of hardship for the Gospel
with the strength that comes from God.

He saved us and called us to a holy life,
not according to our works
but according to his own design
and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began,
but now made manifest
through the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus,
who destroyed death and brought life and immortality
to light through the Gospel…

…be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient;
convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.
For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine
but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity,
will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth
and will be diverted to myths…

Entire Letter

It’s a razor’s edge, this journey

of faith. While on the one hand, we know we’re capable of nothing but sin, we baptized are priests, prophets and kings. That reality is one of the many magnificent inspirations of Vatican ll.

“,,,for those who believe in Christ, who are reborn … through the word of the living God, not from the flesh, but from water and the Holy Spirit, are finally established as ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people … who in times past were not a people, but are now the people of God’” (1 Pt 2:9-10) (LG, 9). Christ himself is the “head” of this “messianic” people, in whom the Holy Spirit dwells, as in a temple, who are to abide by the new commandment to love as Christ loves. 

Summary of Lumen Gentium

Long ago, my second or maybe third spiritual director explained the paradoxical reality of all Christians as, “redeemed sinners.” It was his experience, Father Roland remarked, “that converts like you place far too much emphasis on the denominator ‘sinners’ while cradle Catholics often see only the redeemed” part of the ratio. Over two decades later, I again come face-to-face with my tendency toward scrupulosity.

My confessor this past Monday morning’s emphatic “No!” to my concern about whether a frequent habit was sinful was followed by a broad grin and “You are not Teresa of Avila!” There’s no way this priest could know of my long-standing friendship with Saint Teresa of Avila. But Jesus does–it’s the Lord who has graced me with her friendship. A tangible reminder of just Who we are speaking to in confession for the priest acts in persona Christi:

“The Christ whom he gives and makes present, and who by means of his ministry effects the remission of sins is with the priest, who appears as a brother of man, a merciful bridge-builder, faithful and compassionate pastor dedicated to search for the lost sheep, the doctor who heals and comforts, the one teacher who teaches the truth and teaches the ways of God, who judges the living and the dead and judges according to the truth and not according to appearances…Spirit the Sanctifier in the heart; to communicate a pardon which God alone can give; to “celebrate” his reconciliation with the Father, represented in the parable of the prodigal son; to reinsert that redeemed sinner redeemed into the ecclesial communion with his brothers and sisters; to admonish the penitent to change , in a fatherly, encouraging and friendly way, “Go and sin no more.”
The Priest and Confession-Pope John Paul ll

Called to be saints

The title of Somerset Maughm’s novel, Razor’s Edge aptly descibes the struggle facing us each moment of our life. Basking in our state of grace after confession can be enjoyed only momentarily. Within seconds, new temptations crop up and may require virtue not yet assimilated. My friend- and I hope yours!- Saint Teresa of Avila explains:

“Do not suppose that after advancing the soul to such a state God abandons it so easily that it is light work for the devil to regain it. When His Majesty sees it leaving Him, He feels the loss so keenly that He gives it in many a way a thousand secret warnings which reveal to it the hidden danger. In conclusion, let us strive to make constant progress: we ought to feel great alarm if we do not find ourselves advancing, for without doubt the evil one must be planning to injure us in some way; it is impossible for a soul that has come to this state not to go still farther, for love is never idle. Therefore it is a very bad sign when one comes to a standstill in virtue.” —St. Teresa of Avila, p.99
Interior Castle

Saint Teresa paraphrases Jesus’ warning in the Gospel of Matthew: An unclean spirit driven out of a man will return if he finds the soul empty of God and when he returns will bring back seven others, making the last condition of the person worse than the first.

Each of us is called to be a saint, whether in or outside of a monastery. And so Saint Paul’s words, “Stir into flame!” is our mantra. As I read this passage again and again, I see the recipe for our moment-by-moment struggle. The flame we’re stirring up isn’t the natural flame of a cook but of the holy spirit: not a spirit of cowardice but of power and love and self control.

It is not what you are nor what you have been that God sees with all-merciful eyes, but what you desire to be.

The Cloud of the Unknowing

Post Tags :
in persona Christi, Saint John Paul on confession, saint Paul letter to Timothy, saint teresa of avila, why confession

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Lin Wilder

Lin Wilder has a doctorate in Public Health from the UT Houston with a background in cardiopulmonary physiology, medical ethics, and hospital administration. 

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