Come, Fire of God!

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance…”  (Acts 2: 1-4)

As I was praying in preparation for the great Solemnity of Pentecost, I closed my eyes and imagined what it would be like to have a flame of fire resting above my head. It felt warm and a little bit scary. The truth is, though our eyes do not see, we know and believe that He is truly with us.

The Biblical image of Fire is strong and powerful yet steady and gentle. He isn’t a raging-out-of-control inferno, but He is out of our control. A few years ago, Pope Emeritus Benedict reminded us in a homily on Pentecost that the tongues of fire resting on the disciples, fulfilled what Jesus had spoke previously – “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!” (Lk 12: 49)

Each of us received the same Fire – the Holy Spirit – as a gift by merit of our Baptism, sealed and strengthened at Confirmation. Through the authority Jesus gives us in our baptism, we can constantly ask for His gifts to be unleashed in us. We can make invocations for a greater share of the Spirit at every moment – “Veni Sancte Spiritus” – and then make a response of love.

We see the perfect response of the Blessed Mother, who had her first ‘Pentecost’ at the Annunciation. The Holy Spirit overshadowed her and God dwelt in her, literally stirred within her very body. She makes visible the Word and brings us to communion with Him. At the end of the month we’ll celebrate the Feast of the Visitation, where our Blessed Mother, after the encounter with the Holy Spirit, goes in haste to Ein Karem, the hill country of Judea to assist her cousin, Elizabeth, and to proclaim the “greatness of the Lord.”

“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

The proclamation of the greatness of the Lord was the Blessed Mother’s utterance. What utterance does the Spirit give us? How are we asked to proclaim the greatness of the Lord?
Though we do not see tongues of fire resting on us, we eat this Fire when we receive Him in the Eucharist. He literally rests on our tongues! He allows us to consume Him and dwells in us. Why He doesn’t burn a hole in our mouths is mystery beyond comprehension, but then we remember that He is gentle. His fire does not burn, but purifies, transforms, makes new, makes beautiful, makes radiant, when we give Him permission.

“The fire of God, the fire of the Holy Spirit, is that of the bush that burned but was not consumed (cf. Ex 3: 2). It is a flame that blazes but does not destroy, on the contrary, that, in burning, brings out the better and truer part of man, as in a fusion it elicits his interior form, his vocation to truth and to love.” – Pope Benedict XVI.

Let us humbly ask Him to show us the areas of our hearts that have not yet been surrendered and give Him permission to purify, not destroy, but make pure. Then let us make haste and carry the Divine Flame wherever the Lord leads us, trusting that He illumines the path before us. So that we too, like the Blessed Mother and all the disciples “give utterance” and proclaim the greatness of the Lord.
Know of our prayers for you – that you may receive an outpouring of the gifts of the Spirit, allowing His gentle flame to purify you and bring you to your ultimate vocation.

Happy Pentecost!

In the Fire of His Love,
Sr. Grace Dominic, S.V.