WIND, FIRE, TONGUES
Pentecost, Year A. Acts 2:1-11.
AIM - To help the hearers understand the Spirit=s work: in the Church and in us.
There are events so wonderful, and so full of mystery, that ordinary language cannot describe them. Such was the Pentecost event which we celebrate today. In our first reading Luke, the writer, uses symbols to describe something beyond the power of words to portray. The coming of God=s Spirit, he writes, was Alike a strong driving wind.@ ATongues as of fire@ rested on these first Christians, who suddenly received power Ato speak in different tongues.@ These three symbols B wind, fire, tongues B are not arbitrary. Each tells us something about God and his mysterious work in the world.
1. Wind. The word used by Luke is used elsewhere in Scripture to designate a person=s Abreath@ or Aspirit.@ (Cf. Gen. 2:7; Acts 17:25) At birth breathing begins. At death it ceases. The coming of God=s Spirit is said to have been Alike wind@ because the Spirit is the Church=s breath. Before the coming of this Spirit-breath, the Church=s life was something like that of an unborn child in the womb. Only with the coming of this Astrong driving wind@ did the Church receive the fullness of divine life.
This divine breath gives the Church an astonishing power of self-renewal. Again and again in history the Church has become so corrupt through the sins of its members that people have predicted its imminent demise. Yet time and again the Church has risen, through the power of this divine Spirit-breath, renewed and purified. For this recurring phenomenon there is but one possible explanation the fact that the Church lives not from its own strength, and certainly not from the strength of its members, but from the continual in-breathing of God=s Spirit, who is the Church=s life-breath.
2. Fire warms. When breathing stops, so does body heat. Deep within the collective soul of this great family of God which we call the Catholic Church is the fire of the world=s greatest love: the unbounded love of God for all he has made. That is the secret of the Church=s magnetism. People in the Church who are cold, hard-hearted, always ready to criticize, to complain, block the warmth of that love. They act not as heat conveyers, but as heat shields. Which are you with regard to the Spirit=s fire? Are you a heat conveyer, or a heat shield?
Fire warms because it burns. If combustible material is nearby, fire spreads rapidly. Christianity, it has been said, cannot be taught. It must be caught. Are you burning with that fire? Are you handing it on to others?
Fire also gives light. God sent his Son into a dark world to be the world=s light. This light shines today through God=s continual gift of his Spirit to his Church and to each of its members. He wants us to serve as lenses or prisms of that light. AYour light must shine before others,@ Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, Athat they may see your good deeds, and glorify your heavenly Father@ (Mt. 5:16). And in John=s gospel Jesus warns: ABad people all hate the light and avoid it, for fear that their practices should be shown up. The honest person comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that God is in all he does@ (John 3:20f).
When we fear God=s light, we need to ask God burn away whatever causes us to shun the light, whatever stands in the way of our spreading the light, fire, and warmth of his Holy Spirit.
3. The foreign tongues in which these first Christians spoke symbolize the Church=s work through history: proclaiming to all peoples, in all languages, the wonderful truth of God:
$ that God is, that he is real;
$ that he is a God of love, who demands a response of love B for himself, and for our sisters and brothers;
$ that God has made us for himself: to serve, love, and praise him here on earth, to be happy with him forever in heaven;
$ that he is the God of the impossible, who can do for us what we can never do for ourselves: fit us for life with him, here and in eternity.
That is the message which we have to proclaim. Does any of that message come through in your life? If you were arrested tonight for being a Catholic Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? And if mere presence at Sunday Mass were not enough for conviction, would there be enough evidence then?
That we are Christians in a land undreamed of by anyone in
on that Pentecost day is proof that the Spirit=s Astrong driving wind@ did not blow in vain. Those first
touched by that wind were blown into places, and situations, they never dreamed
of. Even those who never left Jerusalem
found their lives utterly changed. Jerusalem
This same wind of the Spirit is blowing in the Church today. Is it blowing in your life? Or are you afraid of that wind B of what it might do to you, and where it might blow you? Cast aide fear. The wind of God=s Spirit, like the winds of the sky, blows from different directions. But in the end this wind blows all who are driven by it to the same place. The wind of God Spirit blows us home B home to God.