St. Boniface

HOMILY WEEK 09 03 – Year II

Rekindling the Flame of the Holy Spirit:

Memorial of St. Boniface

(2 Tim 1:1-12; Ps 123; Mk 12:18-27)


Most of us, I would think, have had the experience of sitting by a campfire until it burned down to some glowing embers. We then got up to fan it or blow some oxygen on it until it sprang to life again, then placed more logs on it to burn.

Today’s readings encourage us to fan the flame of faith that we have all been given, so that we can more strongly shine the light of Christ into a dark world.

The Word Among Us commentary on today’s readings reminds us that years earlier, Paul had laid hands upon Timothy and set him apart as a leader of the church in Ephesus. Now Paul writes to him from a prison cell and reminds Timothy of the fire of the Spirit dwelling within him. And he urges him not only to remember it but to set it ablaze once again.

Paul may have been concerned that the burdens of leadership and the challenges of discipleship had caused Timothy to grow weary. So, he exhorts Timothy to rouse the gift that he already has. Why? So that the fire of God could blaze brightly through him once again and enable him to bring the light of Christ to the people of Ephesus.

Paul reminds Timothy, and us, that the Spirit given is one of power, of love, of discipline, indeed, a very real sharing in the eternal life of God. Unlike Lazarus, who was resuscitated (not resurrected) and had to die again, Jesus rose to a new kind of life, eternal life, resurrected life, that he shares with the Father, and had shared with Timothy through faith, baptism and ordination.

We were given that same Spirit at our baptism (“Receive the light of Christ” was spoken to our parents and godparents) and at our confirmation (“Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit” was spoken to us by the bishop). What an amazing gift. The very same Spirit that brought order to the chaos of the original creation, that raised Jesus from the dead, was given to us “to be kept burning brightly.” As St. John Chrysostom has said, it lies within our power to kindle or extinguish this fire.

There are many ways that we can rekindle this fire of the Spirit within us. For those in the Twelve Step program of A.A., Step 5 provides an opportunity for a fresh start: “Admitted to God, ourselves and one other person the exact nature of our wrongdoing.” This is a life-time confession, freeing members of guilt and fear. For Catholics, this can take the form of repenting for our sins and receiving sacramental absolution as well as the healing power of the sacrament.

Reading the Word of God prayerfully and with faith is another way to refresh the life of the Spirit within, as “the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12).

I find that the practice of Lectio Divina leading to contemplative prayer is one of the best ways to deepen the life of the Spirit within us. I like to visualize that when we are in the presence of God in contemplative prayer, then God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, have humbled themselves to come into our presence, and soak up our love, as we are soaking up God’s love. That is pretty good for our self-worth and self-esteem!

We can even push that further and consider doing a Poustinia, a twenty-four-hour retreat of prayer, fasting, resting and writing. This experience, popularized by Catherine van de Hueck-Doherty, founder of the Madonna House Apostolate in Combemere, ON, is a great way to get re-grounded and re-freshed in God’s love for us.

Another way to daily rekindle and refresh the flame of the Spirit within us is what I call the Prayer of the Anawim, a heartfelt prayer first thing on rising in the morning, thanking God for the gift of another day, then asking for the Spirit to fill us with the spiritual gifts we need for that day, and to free and liberate us from the painful emotions and negative attitudes we struggled with the previous day. End with the Serenity Prayer and we are good to go for the day, walking with Jesus in the power of the Spirit. Step Eleven of A.A. speaks of this as seeking to “improve our conscious contact with God.”

St. Boniface

Today the church honours St Boniface, who lived fully these teachings of St. Paul and Jesus. He was born around 680 in Devonshire, England, given the name Wynfrid and was raised in Benedictine monasteries. By 717, he was a renowned teacher and preacher, but gave up his work in response to a call to the mission field of northern Netherlands. In Rome, Pope Gregory II renamed him Boniface. He was made archbishop of Mainze by Pope Gregory III. He was one of the truly outstanding creators of the first Europe as the apostle of Germania. Through his efforts to reorganize and regulate the church of the Franks, he helped shape Western Christianity, and many of the dioceses he proposed remain today. At Geismar, Boniface made a tremendous impression by destroying the great Oak of Thor, an object of pagan worship, without being harmed by “the gods” (a missionary practice we would question today).

Boniface is called the “Apostle of Germany.” He was martyred in Frisia in 754, along with 52 others, and his remains were returned to Fulda, where they rest in a sarcophagus which became a site of pilgrimage. Boniface’s life and death as well as his work became widely known. After his martyrdom, he was quickly hailed as a saint in Fulda and other areas in Germania and in England. His cult is still notably strong today. Boniface is celebrated (and criticized) as a missionary, but he is regarded as a unifier of Europe, and is seen (mainly by Catholics) as a Germanic national figure.

According to Bishop Robert Barron, St. Thomas Aquinas described the Eucharist as a kindling of the fire of God’s love in a new place. So, whenever we celebrate the Eucharist, we are doing just that – kindling the fire of God’s love, and rekindling the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

So, as we celebrate, let us fan the flame of faith that we have all been given,  that we can more strongly shine the light of Christ into a dark world, as did St. Paul and St. Boniface.


Updated: June 5, 2024 — 4:24 am

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