On Fire With the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit, the One who can enter anywhere it wishes entered each and every one of them and their hearts were suddenly so full they began to speak in a multitude of languages.

The experience that the Apostles had on the occasion of the Pentecost was, for all of humanity, breathtaking. The way it is described in the scriptures still stuns our imaginations today.

The sound of a strong wind rose outside, then seemed to enter the very place where they all hid together from the authorities. It must have filled them with wonder when it entered the room and suddenly saw tongues of flame settling over each of their brother’s heads. The Holy Spirit, the One who can enter anywhere it wishes entered each and every one of them and their hearts were suddenly so full they began to speak in a multitude of languages.

There were Jews from all over the world there, from Mesopotamia to Libya, from Judea to Arabia and they were all amazed that they were hearing these Galileans speaking in their own tongues.

There were those in the crowds too, who out of their own ignorance and arrogance, made fun of the Apostles and called them drunkards.

That was then, of course. But the Holy Spirit is as present today as then. The Breath of God still enters the hearts and minds of those who are humble enough. We are challenged by the Holy Spirit today, no less than the Apostles were 2,012 years ago, to speak the Good News to the world in our time.

Catherine of Sienna preached, “Be who you are called to be and the world will be set aflame.” So it is with us now. We must act in accord with our calling as Christians to speak and, more importantly, to live the Good News with our very lives. We are called to be followers of Jesus who showed us how to be fully human in this world.

What is our calling? What is our nature? We are called to be servants to all of our brothers and sisters. We are called to reverence all of life, to forgive those who trespass against us, to be present to the poor, to give our lives, if necessary, for the good of others.

The Spirit comes to all of us in our utter uniqueness. The Spirit is never the same. The Spirit will use us in that uniqueness and never asks us to be anyone other than who we are.

Listen to this short tale from the annals of the Desert Fathers. A young monk went to his Abbot Father and said, “Father, I keep my little rule, I keep my little fast, and I keep my little prayer. What else should I do?”

At that the Abbot rose to his feet and raised his arms and hands up in a gesture of prayer until each of his fingers were lit with flames. And he said, “Why not become the whole fire?”

That is what the Holy Spirit wants of us. We are too often half-hearted Christians. When others look at us they cannot tell anything different about us from anyone else. Why should we limit our faith? Why should we not be easily identified as Christians by our actions, not just our words? Why should we not be afire with love for God and for God’s people. If we are not, why should others want to be like us?

We need to speak in tongues today too. But this does not necessarily mean that we suddenly start speaking in ancient languages. It may be that we need to find a way to speak to those we move among today in language that is clearer, more filled with compassion and challenging in ways that will give our listeners, finally, the opportunity to see for themselves the gift that only faith in the Eternal Loving God is the real source of true happiness.

We are Pentecost people. Let us live the joy of our faith with joyous enthusiasm, not in sappy ways, but in ways that face the hard edges of reality with courage and commitment so clear and real that others will want what we have for themselves.

The Spirit is with us. He has never, and will never abandon us. Stand up, then, and be what God has made you to be. Our times are full of those who will laugh at us, but there are those who are ready to hear the Word of God and turn finally toward life, not just life here, but life eternal. This is the true meaning of Pentecost.