A Day Of Wind And Fire
The passage of centuries does not dilute the impact of Pentecost. In ancient Judaism, Pentecost was an agrarian feast occurring fifty days (pentecost) after the Feast of Unleavened Bread and thus at the time of the wheat and barley harvest. By the second century A.D., Pentecost celebrated Moses' reception of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. The Christian Pentecost described so powerfully in the Acts of the Apostles by Saint Luke is the formative event of the Church. The disciples are gathered in one room when they hear a mighty wind from heaven filling the room and they saw what appeared to be tongues of fire rest upon each of their heads. In the Old Testament, wind and fire are used often to express the powerful presence of God. This event imparts the Holy Spirit upon the disciples. It is the Holy Spirit that become the force behind the public preaching of the gospels. The Third Person of the Blessed Trinity is the impetus in spreading the message throughout the world and the bedrock of faith of all who come to Christ. At Pentecost people from many nations and speaking various languages were in Jerusalem. It was to such a crowd that the disciples directed their proclamation. The people were amazed to hear these followers of Jesus speaking to them in their own languages. It was clear that the mission of the Church is universal and will overcome all boundaries of speech and culture.
Since the first Pentecost, ages have come and gone. Current technology makes it possible to reach every person on earth with the teachings of Christ. However, proclamation and acceptance are two different things. The quandary now is to discover how to make believers out of unbelievers. How does society adopt a change in its customs and beliefs? In the past we have seen this occur and at times rapidly, but what is the mechanism involved? It is evident from experience that it is not often found in logic, wisdom or even truth. One may or may not adhere to the "swinging pendulum" theology that particular beliefs come in and out of fashion in some sort of predictable cycle, but there are forces that bring about change.
Suspending our inquiry into the mystery of change, evidence is growing that a spiritual revival may be dawning. There are increasing incidents of people in the public eye witnessing to the power of God in their lives. There is a marked growth in the amount of literature that extols the value and the need of virtue both in public and in private life. In general, people are less reticent in regard to expressing their faith or to admitting the need for growth in their faith. The Holy Spirit never tires in seeking hearts and minds open to embracing a meaning and a destiny in life that only God can give.
Recently, I was given the opportunity to give the invocation and benediction at the commencement ceremonies of the police academy in a local town. Speakers included politicians, judges and high ranking police administrators. They all incorporated into their remarks the need of God's influence and blessings in the lives of the new, young police officers. I thought that I would be the sole voice in proclaiming the importance of God in the personal and professional lives of these young men and women. The Spirit is active indeed.
The Christian is armed with the truth. Throughout human history, this truth has shaped and defined the core beliefs of what we call civilization. We who currently occupy this earth and constitute the Church must fulfill our mission to bring the message of love and salvation to the lives of all. We must remember that in receiving the sacraments of baptism and confirmation we joined the disciples in that room on Pentecost. Someone once said: "Before Christ sent the Church into the world, he sent the Spirit into the Church. The same order must be observed today." With the Spirit living in us, we are able to invite others to live in the Spirit.
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