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Sunday, November 5, 2023

Sunday Meditation: What Good is a Useless Candle that Refuses to Burn?

The pathetic candle
A few years ago, I bought a beautiful red Christmas candle which has rested in my cupboard because I hated to deform it through use. Recently I decided it was time to burn that candle. After all, what good is a candle that's never used? So I took it into my little prayer room and lit it for the first time before I began my morning prayer. 

At least I tried to light it. 

The silly wick kept sputtering and refusing to give me a flame. When I finally got it started, the flame gave a pathetic little fire and stayed lit for about one minute before again sputtering out. 

That lovely red candle has continued to refuse to burn the way a proper candle should. It's pretty all right, but almost useless. Like the salt in the Bible that goes flat, it's unfit for the use intended by its maker.

Oh, it's still pretty, and I suppose I could put a little vigil light in it and use it as a candle holder, but the candle itself is nothing but a pretty and pretty useless item. I wonder what the candle maker would think about his creation. 

This episode got me thinking. My useless candle has become a metaphor for life. What was I made for? The Baltimore Catechism drilled into me in elementary school asks: "Why did God make me?" And I answer: "God made me to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him in this world and to be happy with Him in the next."

Unlike the candle, which wasn't made in the image of the candle-maker, I was made in the image of God with a purpose and a vocation. My first purpose is to know and love God. My second purpose is to use all that love and knowledge to serve Him in whatever way He calls me to serve. 

smoke rising from the pathetic sputtering and failing candle

But what if I decide to be nothing but an ornament? What if, like the candle, I refuse to burn with love of God and zeal to do His will? Won't I be a useless item with little purpose? I can still be decorative, but, in times of darkness, I will have nothing to offer. 

How many people today are like that candle? 

Think of all the beautiful people: the celebrities, sports heroes, important people like political leaders. Think of Hollywood stars and all those whose purpose in life is nothing but serving themselves and making money. How many, like today's Epistle warns, "...are enemies of the the cross of Christ; whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame; who mind earthly things." (Philippians 3:17)

We were not made for "earthly things," but to foster the heavenly kingdom here on earth. What a tragedy if we choose to be sputtering, useless candles instead of the glimmering heavenly stars we are meant to be.

There is always hope, however, that the wick will finally catch and the flame will rise up. I keep lighting my candle and hoping that this time it will begin to burn with a vigorous and light-giving flame. It may never happen with my candle, because there may be a defect in its design, but nothing God designs is defective. We may be injured by sin, but God can renew us. "A smoldering wick He will not quench." If we can't burn like a furnace of charity; let us at least smolder with love of God.

We have the prescription to transform our smoldering wick into a lively fire.

Every time we receive Communion worthily, our little flame bursts into glorious light. Every time we go to Confession we trim our wicks like the wise virgins with their lamps. No matter how long we've been useless candles, there is hope for us until death. God reaches out to us with His flame and begs us to receive it and become His light-giving, torch-bearing heralds.

May all of us who love Christ be bright lamps lit and placed on the lamp stand to give light to the entire house. All we have to do is imitate Mary and give a resounding, "Yes!"

May Jesus Christ be praised, now and forever!