2 Timothy 1:1-8
A verse from our first reading always attracts my attention and it is St Paul’s advice to his disciple Timothy,
‘fan into a flame the gift that God gave you’ (2Tim 1:6).
Here St Paul’s may be referring to the gift of grace given to Timothy at his ordination when he was set apart for a special ministry of oversight within the early Church; but I think that Paul’s advice can be helpful for us as well. We have received many precious gifts from God and above all we have received the gift of faith, like a spark of divine light through which we know him and we can approach him as Father. However, a faith that is not nourished is always at risk of being put out, quenched by the many worries and difficulties of life. So Paul reminds us to fan this precious gift of God, this glowing ember of faith, into a bright flame, so that it may be a guide for ourselves and a beacon for others. But how do we do this? By practicing the good habit, the virtue, that is religion.
St Augustine, one of the greatest Christian thinkers, suggested that the word “religion” may come from the Latin “religare” which means “to bind” (Cf. De Vera Religione. 55). Practicing the virtue of religion does just this; religion binds us to God through daily prayer, through reading the gospels and other spiritual writings, through receiving the Sacraments and keeping the commandments. If we do these things, if we are attentive to the role of religion in our lives, then we will fan the gift of faith into an unquenchable flame that will shine brightly to the glory of God.