Some might say this candle of ours has seen better days.
At the very least, it’s seen a LOT of days…
…as in 13 years’ worth of Monday nights…and counting. That’s how long we’ve been using the same ‘call-to-prayer’ device—which began its service life as a ‘team candle’ during formation activities for an ACTS retreat…and then morphed into the Christ-light symbol for our weekly men’s faith-sharing group.
You could try to talk me into replacing it with a newer model. But good luck with that. Sure, there are cracks in its façade…and an entire section near the top where the wax has melted away completely. But I’ve come to see the candle’s deficiencies as more like battle scars than flaws.
They remind me of the trials we’ve been through together—my prayer brothers and I—over the past 13 years. More than that, they recall the strength for self-giving we’ve found in its flames…the call-to-action we’ve heard (and responded to) as we’ve grown in our understanding of what it means to be disciples. True people of the ‘beatitudes’.
I thought about our lowly Prayer Group Candle when reflecting on the readings we hear at Mass this weekend. First, the great prophet Isaiah assures us:
Share your bread with the hungry,
shelter the oppressed and the homeless;
clothe the naked when you see them,
and do not turn your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn…
And in the passage we hear from Matthew’s gospel, there’s a similar refrain:
Jesus said to his disciples…’You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others…’
It’s not like any of the ‘regulars’ in our group has become a klieg light of virtue. At the same time, as I look around the Prayer Group circle, I see—to a person—men who have learned how to let their light shine, in an amazing variety of ways: Prison ministry. PSR. Room At The Inn. Catholic Radio. Divorce Care. Stephen Ministry. Society of St. Vincent de Paul. ACTS retreat teams. Financial Peace University. RCIA. Athletic Association. AA and Al-Anon.
I doubt that any of my Monday Night brothers would say that regular faith-sharing is the ONLY reason they do what they do. But I do think we’ve all learned how important this fellowship is.
Like oxygen to a flame, it can keep an otherwise sad-sack candle burning brightly.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.