Come Holy Spirit and set us on fire!
Today we celebrate the great Feast of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit, as Our Lord had promised, came down upon Our Lady and the Apostles and the Catholic Church was founded. When Our Lord was on earth He laid the foundations for His Church, but the references were always in the future tense. “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build My Church” (Matthew 16:18). Neither did He say ‘churches’, but ‘Church – in the singular. So there is only one Church and that is the Catholic Church, which He established and which enjoys divine rights over the Deposit of Faith and the Sacraments and which came to birth at Pentecost.
This is also a feast about fire which challenges us to come out of our sometimes lazy and tepid Christian lives. Our Lord said, “I have come to cast a fire upon the earth” (Luke 12:49). This is the fire of the Holy Spirit, which transforms us, refines us and purifies us and emboldens us.
What kind of men were the Apostles before Pentecost? They were rough, ignorant and timid, but also ambitious, because they were hoping for personal glory here on earth. Then the Crucifixion came, their hearts sank and they deserted JESUS. The Resurrection restored their faith but they still lacked courage and enterprise. So they gathered in the Upper Room in hiding for fear of the Jews, waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit Whom Our Lord promised would come to enlighten them, teach them all truth and give them the courage and ability to spread the Faith throughout the world. Then fifty days after the Resurrection on the Jewish feast of Pentecost, “they heard what sounded like a powerful wind from Heaven”. There appeared “tongues of fire which settled on them” (Acts 2:1). From this moment when they received the Holy Spirit they were utterly transformed. Their minds were infused with supernatural light, their hearts were overflowing with love, and they received courage and strength to withstand all human opposition. Then they went out and began openly preaching the Gospel of JESUS Christ. Their preaching was heard by each listener in their own language so that the light of the Gospel could be given to all. Neither did they show any fear when they had to face the wrath of the Synagogue or Jewish officials. After this they went out into the whole world to win it for Christ.
The Holy Spirit accomplished in them what armies have never been able to do except perhaps in a very limited way. But God used these weak and ignorant men to conquer the world for Christ so it would be obvious that God’s power was with them.
But what of today? We can become depressed when we see the state of the world and the state of the Church. We are constantly told the Church is dying, but the Church can never die, because Christ is alive and His Mystical Body, the Catholic Church, is vivified by the eternal Spirit Who can never die. The Spirit is the very soul of the Church which can no more be destroyed than the soul of an infant. The Church throughout history has been attacked and betrayed from within and from without just as She is today. But the Church will never die because Christ can never die again. All the old heresies, errors and betrayals being regurgitated in the Church today will disappear again just as they did in the past, so that in the end He will be glorified in His Mystical Body just as He is now in His physical Body.
So what does this mean for us? Too many Christians are silent today out of fear, perhaps fear of being called names or of being unpopular or not being able to answer difficult questions. Sometimes we can be very comfortable in the “Upper Room” of the parish, but once outside we retreat into silence. The Holy Spirit wants to change that! Pray to Him and ask Him to light a fire in you! We need to win souls for Christ. The spread of the Gospel is in your hands. Be not afraid. Come Holy Spirit and enkindle in us the fire of Your love!
Fr Paul Gillham, IC