“The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart.”
The partially reconstructed building in the photo is of the Temple of Vesta, located in the Roman Forum. This small, circular structure was among the most important buildings in all the Roman empire. Within it a fire was kept burning, 24 hours and day, day after day, for centuries. The keepers of this flame were a small group of women and girls who had been especially chosen. They were housed in a beautiful complex just behind the temple and for thirty years were devoted to this task. As long as the flame burned, Rome would endure.
Today the flame, to which the Romans devoted so much care and attention, has been extinguished. The compound of the vestals and the temple over which they kept watch are in ruins. The Roman empire, seemingly destined to endure forever, is gone.
Christians, too, have a light which requires our attention. That light is the message of the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus. From generation to generation the Church is mandated to make the stewardship of the Word of God its first priority. Other matters may occupy our time and attention, but none are more important.
Unlike the flame of the Vestals, however, the light of Christ is not dependent upon us in order to endure. We do not keep the light of the Word alive, the Word keeps us alive. I take great comfort in this. For while the obligation to bear witness to the Word challenges me, I know that God provides all the necessary resources to make His Word known. God has chosen to keep His light burning not in beautiful marble temples but in earthen pots like you and me. God keeps the Word, Jesus our Lord, down to earth, in our hearts, on our lips, as near as a breath, as near as the sacraments, close to the hurts and hopes of the world. And in doing so keeps us in the promise: the light of Christ will shine no matter how persistent the darkness may be.
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”