By Rev. Philip Hearn St. Mary’s/St. Peter’s Catholic Church, 105 E. Liberty St.
"There appeared to the, tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each of them."
The presence of the Holy Spirit as fire is rather intriguing. Fire, in religious terms, has typically had negative connotations: The fires of Hell, the chaff will be burned in unquenchable fire, and fire destroying Sodom and Gomorrah.
Despite these disturbing scriptural references to fire, there are time when fire represents the presence of God. God speaks to Moses from a burning bush. God makes a covenant with Abram as fire in the night passes through his sacrificial offering. With further reflection on the qualities of fire, it makes perfect sense that the Holy Spirit should appear as tongues of fire. Fire purifies, removing germs and bacteria. Fire transforms. Things are not the same after a fire goes through a place. Fire is consuming. It overtakes everything in its path. Fire rages forth. It goes where it wants to go. These are the same effects that Holy Spirit brings upon those who open their lives to him.
These are intended effects of God in our lives. We are to be purified and made holy. Our lives are to be transformed to be more like that of Christ. We are to be consumed, overtaken by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit wants to roar and rage through us, to set our hearts on fire with love of the Lord, so we can help bring his love to others. God showers his Holy Spirit upon us like fire from Heaven.
When we speak about "spirit," in a worldly sense, we usually mean something about life and passion. We can clearly recognize a person who is filled with spirit: School spirit, team spirit, work spirit, family spirit. They are on fire with passion. You can hear it in their voice. You can see it in their face. You can see it in the way they use their time and spend their money. Their whole heart is into it. They are so alive. Clearly, sending of the Holy Spirit reflects God’s intention for the followers of Jesus to be on fire for him in a similar way. The presence of the Holy Spirit "builds." "animates" and "sanctifies" the church.
Receiving the Holy Spirit, the apostles went forth, boldly proclaiming Jesus Christ to friends and strangers, near and far. The fire of faith spread as the people saw the wonders that God was doing through the apostles. Opening their lives to the Holy Spirit, the people faithfully, passionately shared their gifts and talents for the good of everyone and honor and glory of God. They allowed that spirit to burn away divisions through mutual forgiveness and the peace of the Lord flowed over them.
If we are going to be truly Christian, we must be on fire for the Lord. Our faith cannot be like the little flame of a match. No, our faith must be like the flame of a blowtorch. We most burn with passion for the faith. With passion, we worship the Lord. We pray with passion. We listen to God’s word with passion. With passion, we proclaim to the world that "Jesus Christ is the Lord."
Love of the Lord must be seen in our faces and heard in our voices as we talk about the faith. With passion, we must live out our faith. We must be excited to share our gifts and talents for the good of others. The Holy Spirit brings us such passion. He is the powerful, uncontained presence of God. It makes perfect sense, then, that he should come as fire upon us so that we will be purified, transformed and consumed by him in order that we may be on fire for God in the world. Let us be open to the Holy Spirit. Come Holy Spirit Come! Instill in us a blazing fire for the Lord! Amen!