Dear My Brothers and Sisters In Christ,
For the past seven weeks we have kept the Easter Candle in the sanctuary, lighting it every time we have celebrated Mass. The living flame of the Easter Candle reminded us that Christ is alive, that he rose from the dead just as the sun rises each morning to put an end to the darkness of the night. The tall, white candle with a burning flame on top reminded us of God's faithfulness throughout all of history. It symbolized the two miraculous pillars - smoke by day and fire by night - that had guided the ancient Israelites out of Egypt, through the desert, and to the Promised Land. Now it is Christ, the Risen Lord, who is our pillar of smoke and pillar of fire, our sure guide out of slavery to sin, through this world of trials and temptations, and into the Promised Land of Heaven.
After Pentecost Sunday, we remove the Easter Candle from our sanctuary. Until next Easter, we will only use it during baptism and funeral ceremonies, when Christ's risen life is given for the first time to new members of the Church or members of the Church come home and be with God forever. Does the removal of the Easter Candle mean that Christ is no longer among us? No. The sanctuary lamp beside the Tabernacle reminds us that Christ has not gone on vacation. When we take the Easter Candle out of the sanctuary, because we ourselves become living Easter Candles, burning flames of wisdom, pillars of Christian faith and love spreading Christ's hope in the world.
How can we follow this call to be Easter Candles for the world? Most importantly, we have to make sure we keep the flame burning in our hearts. If we do, it will give light and warmth to those around us without our even realizing it. Too many Christians have let the flame die out. They call themselves Christians, but they live mediocre lives. They have none of Christ's wisdom, courage, virtue, or joy, so they can give none of it to those around them.
Life is already demanding, and so it's hard to stay motivated enough to follow through on our commitment to excellence in holiness. We can only do so by keeping in mind the fundamental truth that underlies everything else: that God is love, and that everything he sends us, permits us, or asks of us flows from his love. When that truth is firm and fresh, it feeds our prayer and fidelity. How can we keep it firm and fresh? Gratitude - the rarest flower in the garden of virtues. If we take five minutes every day to thank God for his blessings, past and present, we will come to know his love deeply and truly. Let us take five minutes a day, write God a thank you note or sit quietly and, in his presence, count your blessings. If we do, the flame of Pentecost that was lit in our hearts at baptism will stop flickering and start burning.
Let's pray for a new Pentecost in our lives, our parish, and our world, and let's promise to do our part to become the living Easter Candles, burning flames of wisdom, pillars of Christian faith and love spreading Christ's hope in the world.