Skip to comments.The Fire Next Time – A Homily For the Feast of Pentecost.
Posted on 06/08/2014 3:47:57 AM PDT by markomalley
What a wondrous and challenging feast we celebrate at Pentecost. A feast like this challenges us, because it puts to the lie a lazy, sleepy, hidden, and tepid Christian life. The Lord Jesus had said to Apostles, and still says to us: I have come to cast a fire on the earth! (Luke 12:49). This is a feast about fire, about a transformative, refining, and purifying fire that the Lord wants to kindle in us and in this world. It is about a necessary Fire, for as the Lord first judged the world by fire, the present heavens and the earth are reserved for fire. Since It is going to be the fire next time, we need the tongues of Pentecost fire to fall on us to set us on fire and bring us up to the temperature of glory.
The Readings today speak to us of the Holy Spirit in three ways: The Portraits of the Spirit, the Proclamation of the Spirit and the Propagation by the Spirit. Lets look at all three.
I. The Portraits of the Spirit The Reading today speaks of the Holy Spirit using two images: rushing wind, and tongues of fire. These two images recall Psalm 50 which says, Our God comes, he does not keep silence, before him is a devouring fire, round about him a mighty tempest. (Psalm 50:3).
Rushing Wind Notice how the text from Acts opens: When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.
This text brings us to the very root meaning of the word Spirit. For spirit refers to breath, and we have this preserved in our word respiration, which means breathing. So, the Spirit of God is the breath of God, the Ruah Adonai (the Spirit, the breath of God).
Genesis 1:2 speaks of this saying the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. And Genesis 2:7 speaks even more remarkably of something God did only for man, not the animals: then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul (Gen 2:7).
So the very Spirit of God was breathed into Adam! But, as we know, Adam lost this gift and died spiritually when he sinned.
Thus we see in this passage from Acts an amazing and wonderful resuscitation of the human person as these first Christians (120 in all) experience the rushing wind of Gods Spirit breathing spiritual life back into them. God does C.P.R. and brings humanity, dead in sin, back to life! The Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us once again as in a temple (cf 1 Cor 3:16). It has been said that Christmas is the feast of God with us, Good Friday is the Feast of God for us, but Pentecost is the Feast of God in us.
Tongues of Fire The text from Acts says, Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.
The Bible often speaks of God as fire, or in fiery terms. Moses saw God as a burning bush. God led the people out of Egypt through the desert as a pillar of fire. Moses went up on to a fiery Mt. Sinai where God was. Psalm 97 says, The LORD reigns; let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad! Clouds and thick darkness are round about him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. Fire goes before him, and burns up his adversaries round about. His lightnings lighten the world; the earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the Lord of all the earth. The heavens proclaim his righteousness; and all the peoples behold his glory. (Ps 97:1-6). Scriptures call God a Holy fire, a consuming fire (cf Heb 12:29) and a refining fire (cf Is. 48:10; Jer 9:7; Zec 13:9; & Mal 3:3).
And so it is that our God, who is a Holy Fire, comes to dwell in us through his Holy Spirit. And as a Holy Fire, He refines us by burning away our sins and purifying us. As Job once said, But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold (Job 23:10).
And he is also preparing us for judgement, for if God is a Holy Fire, then who may endure the day of his coming or of our going to Him? What can endure the presence of Fire Himself? Only that which is already fire. Thus we must be set afire by Gods love.
So, in the coming of the Holy Spirit God sets us on fire to make us a kind of fire. In so doing, he purifies and prepares us to meet him one, He who is a Holy Fire.
II. The Proclamation of the Spirit. - You will notice that the Spirit Came on them like tongues of Fire. And the reference to tongues is no mere accident. For notice how the Holy Spirit moves them to speak, and ultimately to witness. The text says: And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.
So behold how the Holy Spirit moves them to proclaim, not just in the safety of the upper room, but also in holy boldness before the crowds who have gathered.
Notice the transformation! Moments ago these were frightened men who gathered only behind locked doors, in secrecy. They were huddled together in fear. But now they go forth to the crowds and boldly proclaim Christ. They have gone from fear to faith, from cowardice to courage, from terror to testimony!
And how about us? Too many Christians are silent, dominated by fear. Perhaps they fear being called names, or not being popular. Perhaps they are anxious about being laughed at, or resisted, or of being asked questions they dont feel capable of answering. Some Christians are able to gather in the upper room of the parish and be active, even be leaders. But once outside the upper room they slip into undercover mode. They become secret agent Christians.
Well, the Holy Spirit wants to change that, and to the degree that we have really met Jesus Christ and experienced his Holy Spirit we are less able to keep silent. An old Gospel song says, I thought I wasnt gonna testify, but I couldnt keep it to myself, what the Lord has done for me. The Holy Spirit, if authentically received, wants to give us zeal and joy, and burn away our fear, so that testifying and witnessing are natural to us.
Note also how the Spirit translates for the apostles, for the crowd before them spoke different languages, but all heard Peter and the others in their own language. The Spirit therefore assists not only us, but also those who hear us. My testimony is not dependent only on my eloquence, but also on the grace of the Holy Spirit who casts out deafness and opens hearts. Every Christian should remember this. Some of our most doubtful encounters with others can still bear great fruit on account of the work of the Holy Spirit who translates for us and overcomes many obstacles that we might think insurmountable.
III. The Propagation by the Spirit In the great commission the Lord said, Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age (Matt 28:19ff). He also said, as we have noted, I have come to cast a fire on the earth and How I wish the blaze were already ignited (Luke 12:49).
But how is the Lord going to do this?
Perhaps a picture will help. My parish church is dedicated to the Holy Spirit under the title: Holy Comforter. Above the high altar is the Latin inscription: Spiritus Domini, replevit orbem terrarum (The Spirit of the Lord, filled the orb of the earth). (See photo, above right, of our high altar).
And yet, we may wonder how He will do this.
But the walls of my parish Church answer the question. The clerestory walls are painted Spanish Red, and upon this great canvas are also painted the lives of 20 saints, surrounding us like a great cloud of witnesses (cf Heb 12:1). (See also, video below). And over the head of every saint is a tongue of fire.
THIS is how the Spirit of the Lord fills the earth. It is not magic fairy dust, it is in the fiery transformation of every Christian, going forth into the world to bring light and warmth to a dark and cold world. THIS is how the Lord casts fire on earth, THIS is how the Spirit of the Lord fills the orb of the earth: in the lives of saints, and, if you are prepared to accept it, in YOU.
In the end, the Great Commission (Matt 28) is standing order No. 1. No matter what else, we are supposed to do this. Parishes do not deserve to exist if they do not do this. We as individual Christians are a disgrace, and not worthy of the name, if we fail to win souls for Jesus Christ. The Spirit of the Lord is going to fill the orb of the earth, but only through us. The spread of the Gospel has been placed in your hands (scary isnt it?).
In the Past two years, my own parish, after a year of training, stepped out into our neighborhood, and went door to door and into the local park. And we announced Jesus Christ, and invited people to discover him in our parish, and in the sacraments. And we were in the local park and the market last week doing sidewalk evangelization.
Before we count even a single convert, this is already success because we are obeying Jesus Christ who said, simply, Go! Go make disciples. And, truth be told, we ARE seeing an increase in my parish. Our Sunday attendance has grown from about 450 to 520, a 15% increase. We are growing, and our attendance, while average for a downtown city parish, is going in the right direction. God never fails. God is faithful.
Spread the news: it works if you work it, so work it because God is worth it. Go make disciples. Ignore what the pollsters tell you about a declining Church and let the Lord cast a fire on the earth through you! Fires have way of spreading! Why not start one today? The Spirit of God will not disappoint.
I know this, my parish has a future because we are obeying Jesus Christ, we are making disciples. How about you and yours? If parishes do not obey, they do not deserve to exist and can expect to close one day, no matter how big they are today. I, in my short 50 years on this planet, have seen it: parishes once big, booming, and, (frankly), arrogant, are now declining and some are near closure. It happens to the best, if they do not evangelize, if they do not accomplish Job 1. The Lord wants to light a fire. Why not become totally fire? Let the Spirit propagate the Church through you (I am not talking about the person next to you, I am talking to you).
Happy feast of Pentecost. But dont forget that the basic image is very challenging, for it means getting out of the upper room, opening the doors, and proclaiming Christ to the world. Let the Holy Spirit light a fire in you, and then, you cant help but spread light and heat to a cold and dark world.
Let the evangelization of the whole world begin with you.
Msgr Pope ping
**Too many Christians are silent, dominated by fear. Perhaps they fear being called names, or not being popular. Perhaps they are anxious about being laughed at, or resisted, or of being asked questions they dont feel capable of answering. Some Christians are able to gather in the upper room of the parish and be active, even be leaders. But once outside the upper room they slip into undercover mode. They become secret agent Christians.**
I think many of us are like this. So to speak, hidden Catholics.
**In the Past two years, my own parish, after a year of training, stepped out into our neighborhood, and went door to door and into the local park. And we announced Jesus Christ, and invited people to discover him in our parish, and in the sacraments. And we were in the local park and the market last week doing sidewalk evangelization.**
Not surprising that his parish has done this. God bless them and may we take the hint to do likewise.
I worked in the same place for 27 years. I couldn't go on about my faith to these people. It would have been intrusive and insulting. I figured that I would best express my faith by example, leading a good life...and wearing a cross.
No one ever questioned me or expressed any curiosity about my Catholic faith, and they all knew I was Catholic. I wasn't a "hidden" Catholic at all. I had no fears and no one would DREAM of laughing at me. WHY would I have wanted to work with such people? If there were people like that there I wouldn't have stayed.
My husband and I also worked in the middle east for five years. We weren't allowed to wear crosses or crucifixes where they could be seen. So I didn't. My boss was ALWAYS very respectful of religion. In fact, I picked up my habit of DAILY MASS thanks to my Saudi boss.
No hidden Catholics in the KSA either, just circumspect ones due to where we lived.
I find that the deeper I get into the faith and the more I learn about it, that the Holy Spirit gives me opportunities to talk about it. It’s still scary but I pray for it. I don’t do it enough. I try to find one opportunity a day. Also, in addition to my cross, I wear an Immaculate Mary medal. Lots of Christians wear crosses (although I think only Catholics wear crucifixes) but only Catholics wear medals. It has started several conversations with usually fall away Catholics.
How do you know that the folks you speak with are "fallen away Catholics"? Do they wear a sign or do you just look for crucifixes?
Your folks at work are very patient to listen to you lecture them on your faith. I tend to think that it's patronizing.
I try not lecture anyone. I’m usually approached. I don’t look for their medals or crosses, they look for mine and speak to me. I counsel very broken people and I find myself more and more saying to them at the end of their conversation, “God bless you.” Most of that first conversation is me listening. The closest I might come to lecturing is to ask, “Do you have a faith community?” and then to encourage that as a resource. A lot of people rarely have anyone who will just listen. I may ask questions and I may say “I’m sorry for your pain” a lot. But I don’t think I lecture. The first thing Jesus says in the Gospel of John is “What you do you want?” That’s a good place to start. “What do you want?”
God bless you for your witness.
I’m a Baptist but it doesn’t get any better than this! It seems there’s a real revival in the Catholic Church. I hope it spreads. This is what our nation needs - committed believers that can say with the Apostle Paul, ...”for I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ...” In most churches evangelism is the last to come and the first to go. We all tend to have our holy huddles but become mute when we leave the church. Sharing the “good news” has a way of keeping your faith sharp and keeping you listening to that still small voice of the Spirit. He gives you opportunities to share your faith and Christ’s love if you are willing to get outside your comfort zone and take a risk. Great article!
The Catholic Charismatic Renewal
COME HOLY SPIRIT [Ecumenical]
Novena to the Holy Spirit for the Seven Gifts [Devotional]
Did the Apostles Pray the Rosary? (First Novena to the Holy Spirit?) [Catholic Caucus]
It is the Decision of the Holy Spirit and Us .On the Council of Jerusalem...(Catholic Caucus)
The Holy Spirit And Mary (Catholic Caucus)
The Essentials of the Catholic Faith, Part 1: The Apostles Creed, I Believe in the Holy Spirit
The Essentials of theCatholic Faith,Part1:Apostles Creed:Conceived-Holy Spirit,Born-Virgin Mary
Benedict XVI's Homily for Solemnity of Pentecost
Pentecost Past and Present
The Purpose of Pentecost: and the New Missionary Age of the Church
Pentecost: the Holy Spirit Comes
Pentecost on Mount Athos (where earthly time is one and the same as the eternal today of heaven)
Vigil of the Pentecost and Whitsunday
THE CHURCH IS ALWAYS IN A STATE OF PENTECOST
Father Cantalamessa on Pentecost - Pontifical Household Preacher on Sunday's Readings
The Ever-Present Pentecost
The Advocate vs. The Accuser (Fr. Euteneuer Column)
Always be followed by your conscience (Rainbow Sashers get ready for Pentecost Sunday)
Pentecost worries Vatican [in the Philippines]
Prayer and Meditation: Pentecost
Pentecost Anticipation: The Catholic Charismatic Renewal and Me
Paul's Teaching on the Holy Spirit
Today's Pentecost! Come, Holy Spirit!
Breath of the Savior
Pentecost: The Descent of the Holy Spirit
PENTECOST - Rite of Kneeling
CATECHISM CC - Pt. 1 - Chap. 3 - I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY SPIRIT
CATECHISM CC - Pt 1, Chap 3, ARTICLE 8 "I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY SPIRIT"
YOU are approached? What makes them think that you are to be approached? DON'T tell me that it's your vestments or clerical collar! :o)
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Maybe these door-to-door missionaries should learn Tae Kwon Do or Aikido or something, in case they run into any Mormans or Jehovah's Witnesses on the same porches or in the same parks they visit.
(Metaphorically-or-spiritually-or-apologetically speaking, of course!) :-)
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