Fr. Don Wilson: Don’t let the fire die out

God has given us fire, and we had better offer Him more than ashes.

Fire, in the Bible, represents both God’s love and His wrath, Father Don Wilson told Our Lady of Pentecost Summer Institute this summer in Kelowna. It expresses the intensity of God’s love for us, and at the same time His judgement on unrighteousness. “I have come to cast fire on the earth,” Jesus said in Luke chapter 12, “and how I wish it were already blazing!”

At Pentecost, Father Wilson said, Christians were given that fire. And if the Holy Spirit burns brightly in God’s people, it will kindle God’s flame in the whole world.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t always burn brightly. The Church is often weak and feeble, Father Wilson said, clinging to “the ashes of a bygone enthusiasm. The fire that Jesus cast on the earth has grown sadly low.” Even in the Catholic charismatic renewal, he told an audience of more than 50 charismatic leaders, “every leader longs to be on fire, but today we are more likely to be burnt out.”

God wants our fire fanned into flame, he said, and it’s our job to do that.

. The dying out of the fire can lead to a lot of busy work that gets the kingdom of God nowhere, Father Wilson said. We can find ourselves ending in outward observance what we began in the Spirit, as St. Paul warns in Galatians chapter 3. Worse yet, “a lot of us can’t be burnt out because we were never on fire.”

The only solution, he said, is to turn back to the One who gave us the fire: God Himself. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Hosts” (Zechariah 4:6). “If we want to be on fire with the Spirit, we must take care of our relationship with the Lord.”

First of all, this means prayer time, and lots of it. “Sometimes it seems to be wasting time, but it’s important to waste time with the Lord,” Father Wilson said.

We must also be fully submitted to God in scripture reading, prayer, reception of the sacraments, and obedience to authority. All of this is more important than conferences, techniques or programs.

We need to let God be in charge of our schedule, and that takes more than good intentions. A lot of people are burned out doing things God isn’t asking them to do, Father Wilson said, but “there is always enough time to do the things the Lord is asking us to do.

“There is a small amount of time in the day available to us, and we are accountable to the Lord for how we use it,” he said. “We must be led by God’s priorities, not by demand or pressure from others.”

That means prayer time, time for our families, and appropriate time for relaxation and refreshment, as well as time devoted to the tasks God gives us. And it means cutting out time-wasters that don’t fit into any of those categories.

It also means delegating. Many leaders find that difficult—nobody else can be trusted to do things right. But the Bible says “better two than one by himself” (Ecclesiastes 4:9) , and in addition to lightening the burden, delegation gives other people a chance to grow.

“Never forget that we are not the saviours of the world,” Father Wilson said. “There’s only one Saviour, Jesus, and He invites us to work with Him, using the gifts and powers He has given us.”

We must meet Jesus as a living person, not just as a historical figure; renew our baptism every day, and seek the Spirit again for every new task. “A Christian is above all a convert, converted from the ideas of the world.”

We should ask ourselves, ”am I really converted? Is my whole soul truly turned toward the Lord? Am I calling lack of overt sin ‘conversion’? Is Jesus Lord of all my life, so that I can say ‘not I live, but Christ lives in me (Galatians 2:20) ‘? Have I agreed to be Christianized by Christ, spiritualized by His Spirit? Am I expectant that His gifts will be manifested in me today?”

Father Wilson said the current sufferings of the Church—the revelations of its infidelity and sin within the Church, and ridicule from outside—are actually signs of hope.

“Suffering is the seed of life,” he said. “The Church never has greater cause to hope than when its sufferings are greatest. God is the master of the impossible—He writes straight with crooked lines.”

Father Wilson, director of St. Elizabeth Seton House of Prayer in Kelowna, is a pioneer of the Catholic charismatic renewal in B.C. and spiritual adviser and past chair of the provincial charismatic service committee, as well as bishops’ liaison to the renewal.

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