Fire. It’s intense, beautiful, dangerous, overwhelming, warm, and all consuming.
Fire can be used to warm us on a cold night, or as a way to gather friends on a summer evening. It can also yield immense destruction. Fire is powerful. This is the image that we hear about today as we learn more about the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles at Pentecost. At our Confirmation, we too receive the gift of the Spirit. But have our hearts been set ablaze like those of the Apostles? Do we radically and unabashedly share Christ with those around us, setting their hearts ablaze, too?
First Reading Reflection
As the time of prayer and preparation draws to fulfillment, the disciples, together with Mary, gather in prayer in one place. This may well have been a location in the Temple, as Pentecost was a major Jewish feast day. Known in Jewish terms as the Feast of Weeks (occurring seven weeks, a “week” of weeks, after Passover) or as the Feast of First Fruits. We are reminded of Jesus’s words that if a grain of wheat dies, it bears much fruit. Jesus also said that “harvest is abundant,” as we see when three thousand new members are added in one day!
The action of the Holy Spirit is truly like a fi re, leaping forth to ignite others. And like the fi re of Moses’s burning bush, it does not destroy, but brings a supernatural power to those who receive it. Transformed by grace, the Apostles (whom we fi nd so fearful right after the Resurrection) preach the Good News boldly, with authority. They have become far more Christlike.
But Pentecostal fi re is not only for the Apostles. Though Peter speaks the offi cial word, each one present begins to speak in diff erent languages. The rebellious action of men at the dawn of time brought about the confusion of Babel as a punishment. Now the humble obedience of Christ and his followers calls forth a miracle of understanding.
Never should we think that we are unable to witness to the mighty deeds of God. There are always people in our lives whose languages we speak. And if such persons seem hard to reach, turn to Mary, spouse of the Holy Spirit, whose original Fiat provides a glorious testament to the transforming power of trustful prayer.
St Paul, as part of his continuing instruction to the people of Corinth, explains the varied yet unifying role of the Holy Spirit.
Like many doctrinal clarifi cations in the early Church, St. Paul is responding to a practical concern: it seems that the people in Corinth were getting caught up in certain fl ashy manifestations of God’s power, losing sight of the more essential points. But Paul points to the single source of all holiness: God.
The Holy Spirit is the soul of the Mystical Body, giving life to each member. Likewise to each member he gives special gifts to be used in service of the others and the whole. The purpose of the variety is not individual importance, but harmony. The Holy Spirit, who took the form of a dove, is truly a spirit of peace, which Saint Augustine calls “the tranquility of order.” A body is at peace when the parts work harmoniously together.
The image of the body is not an accident. The action of the Holy Spirit in the Church may well be likened to the forming and functioning of a human body: there are times of rapid and intense growth, and times of apparently slow change. But we should always keep in mind that the Spirit is constantly working in and through the Church.
Let us entrust ourselves to Mary, the spouse of the Holy Spirit, as we surrender to the workings of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and lives.
The giving of the Holy Spirit is not a one-time event. Rather it is like a small river that grows, eventually becoming a mighty river. The scene we are presented with today provides several points for meditation.
First, this is a Resurrection scene, reminding us that the gift of the Holy Spirit is inextricably tied to the events of Holy Week. (In fact the other reading option for this day is taken from the Last Supper discourse.) Paradoxically, Jesus breathes forth the life of his Spirit at the moment of his death, and enables us to receive that Spirit through his sacrifice on the Cross.
Second, this particular giving of the Holy Spirit is specifically for the Apostles. This is when we see them receive a special power—the power of absolution of sins, a power hitherto reserved to God. But this is a gift that the Apostles handed down to their successors. God has chosen to communicate himself through his priests, and we are blessed to frequent the sacraments as an ever-available spring of life.
Finally, while there is certainly a clerical aspect to this reading, we should be reminded that for the laity, the power of forgiveness is a special grace of the Holy Spirit. When we struggle to “forgive those who trespass against us,” the Holy Spirit is always ready to assist us.
What we are powerless to do alone, he will do in us.
Watch the short 6-minute video reflection available free at StMichael.FORMED.org
Our culture struggles with complacency and mediocrity. We settle into a routine and rarely work outside of those confines. In general, we lack passion. Today we will hear about the one who can fi x this; the one who can add adventure and spontaneity into our lives.
Let’s learn more together about the Holy Spirit. Are you open to a new adventure in your life? What holds you back from “setting out into the deep”? Are you willing to follow the Holy Spirit as he leads you on a path of deeper fulfillment in your life?
Recall your Confirmation. You were sealed with same the Holy Spirit as the first disciples at Pentecost.
How did those graces change your life? After your Confirmation, how have you been empowered to share Christ with others?