Solemnity of Pentecost. June 9, 2019.
Acts 2:1-11; 1Cor 12:3-7,12-13; Jn 20:19-23
Why we must be enflamed by the Holy Spirit today
The Pentecost event is usually depicted showing flames of fire coming to rest on the heads of the disciples at the upper room in prayer with Mary the Mother of Jesus. This is based on the Acts of the Apostles, “Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.” But what do these flames tell us about the Holy Spirit in our lives? What is the meaning and implication of these flames in our relationship with the Holy Spirit?
These flames are intimately connected to the absolute lordship of Jesus Christ. In St. Paul’s words to the Corinthians, “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” The presence of the Holy Spirit and His gifts to us are all about manifesting the Lordship of Jesus in our lives as well as extending this lordship over all creation.
This lordship of Christ can be expressed in three ways.
First, the flames of the Spirit purify us and make us beautiful for God. The purifying flames of the Spirit cleanse us of our sins and make us beautiful to God as His children. God delights in us just by our possessing the Spirit of His Son in us. The Father expressed delight in Jesus at His baptism in the Jordan as the Spirit descended in visible form even before Jesus Christ performed any miracle or preached any sermon. The Father exclaimed of Jesus, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Similarly, by simply possessing His Spirit in us, we are indeed beautiful for God and the Father finds true delight in us always no matter our pains or sufferings. By possessing His Spirit, we are beautiful for God as His children even as we lack personal sanctity, apostolic fruitfulness, or the esteem of others.
Secondly, the flames of the Spirit consume us and make us do beautiful things for God. The Spirit does more than make us beautiful to God but bestows on us gifts to live for the greater glory of God and for the service of others. In the words of St. Paul, “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord…To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.” By possessing His Spirit, we strive to do beautiful things for God so that “others can see our good works and give glory to the Father who is in heaven.”(Mt 5:16)
The tongues of fire that descended on the disciples at Pentecost was accompanied by a “strong driving wind.” The disciples were both gifted and strongly impelled by the Holy Spirit to boldly speak the same message in different tongues. What was this message? They did not speak about themselves or their achievements but they “spoke in tongues about the mighty acts of God.” They spoke about the mighty acts of God that was climaxed by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
Thirdly, the flames of the Spirit prepare us to receive the beautiful gifts and rewards that God is offering us today. St. John tells us that the disciples were huddled together behind locked doors “for fear of the Jews.” God does not want us to live in fear and hopelessness but to have the peace and joy of the Holy Spirit won for us by the risen Christ. Jesus offered this peace, “Peace be with you,” and “the disciples rejoiced when they saw the risen Lord.” Unless we receive the forgiveness of the Holy Spirit and communicate the same to others, we cannot have the Spirit’s fruits of peace and joy, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
A Gallup Poll in the United States released in May of this year showed significant changes in public attitude towards some moral and social issues in the country. The poll indicates a growing acceptance of many things as morally acceptable as compared with previous polls. Irrespective of their political leanings, 92% of those polled considered birth control as morally acceptable, 77% believe that divorce was morally acceptable, 64% did not see anything wrong with having a baby outside wedlock, 71% saw pre-marital sex as morally acceptable, 63% approved homosexual relations as morally acceptable, 89% approved of adulterous sexual relationships, 61% approved of pornography, 42% saw abortion as morally acceptable, and not surprisingly, close to 80% say suicide as a viable option.
Why is there a growing acceptance of things that were previously rejected as being morally unacceptable? Why is there a tendency to condone and to even approve of evil things now?
This is most probably because the spirit of the world is having greater influence in the lives of many while they continue to possess the Holy Spirit without allowing His flames to consume them. When we are not enflamed by the Spirit we received at Baptism and Confirmation, then we do not care at all about the Lordship of Jesus in our lives and our calling to extend that Lordship over all people in the world.
When we are not enflamed by the Spirit, we fail to realize that we are already beautiful to God and unconditionally accepted by Him. Thus we easily give ourselves up to the myriad of debased passions and desires that we find in our time. We abandon the call to chastity to embrace and condone homosexuality, pornography, incest, adultery, etc.
We also begin to seek for public approval and acceptance from this world to the extent that we become afraid of offending the world by our preaching or witnessing to the Gospel. Overcome by fear of what people will say, we begin to conform to this world’s mores and fashions and surrender our vocation to be witnesses to the truth and hope in today’s world. Hence our values are no longer shaped by the Gospel but we go with the ever-changing fads in the world.
When we are not enflamed by the Holy Spirit, we are not ready to sacrifice anything to do something beautiful for God by extending the Lordship of Jesus over all peoples. We begin to live for ourselves and our own comfort and pleasure by all means.
The most beautiful thing that we can do for God is to make sacrifices so that others may know Him more, “Greater love no man has than to lay down his life for his friends.”(Jn 15:13) How can we ever hope to lay down our lives for others if we cannot even speak up in defense of the inviolable sanctity of the life of the unborn because Jesus Christ remains the Lord of all life?
When we are not enflamed by the Holy Spirit, we care little about the spiritual joys and peace from His Spirit but strive for the fleeting worldly pleasures and gains that only leave us empty, sad, depressed, and even suicidal. We settle for the fleeting and changing joys and so become flaky and inconstant like them.
Jesus warned us, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”(Mt 24:35) Worldly ideas and fashions will come and go. What the world considered acceptable will come and go, just like those who hold on to those passing things. But the truth of God’s words will never change because they are from His Spirit of truth that makes us beautiful, moves us to do beautiful things for God, and dispose us to receive the everlasting gifts that God freely offers to us.
Jesus Christ is the Lord and King who “truly desires our beauty.”(Ps 45:11) That is why He continuously sends us His Spirit in today’s constantly changing world. The Spirit will surely keep us constant in the path towards heavenly peace and joy if only we choose to become beautiful for God, do beautiful things for God, and live in hope of the beautiful things that God will surely give to us.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!