By Fr. Matt Keller, C.PP.S.
There is a story of a little boy and his grandmother having a conversation and the little boy said “Grandma, I know what happened at Pentecost.” The grandmother said, “What happened at Pentecost?” He said, “It was when Jesus came to set them on fire and then they were no longer afraid.”
This little boy’s answer is cute but also in cute way he is right. When we think of Pentecost, we think of the strong driving wind, the tongues of fire, and the apostles speaking in various languages that whole crowd understood as if they were speaking in their own native language. These were “the mighty acts of God”’ (Acts 2: 11). And after this event, the disciples went out spreading the message of Jesus. Jesus set them on fire.
But what we can so easily forget is that prior to this event of Pentecost, the Apostles were afraid, and they were also experiencing mixture of other emotions. We hear in our scriptures today that the apostles were hiding behind locked doors. And their fear, you could argue, was reasonable. Jesus, their leader and close friend, was convicted and put to death. Because of their association with him, the religious leaders could be coming for them next.
The apostles were also experiencing grief and regret. They had told Jesus they would be there for him, but when the authorities came for Jesus, his disciples fled in fear. Yet it is amid this fear and mixture of emotions, that Jesus appears and brings them his peace and breathes the Holy Spirit on them. They were, as the little boy said, set on fire. Receiving the Holy Spirit strengthened them so that they could share the message of Jesus with the world.
Today as a Church, we officially draw Easter Season to close. After today, the Easter candle will exit its prominent place in the sanctuary and we will return to Ordinary time. Throughout this Easter Season, we have been reading from the Acts of the Apostles and how the Holy Spirit worked in the lives of the apostles, how the Holy Spirit set the apostles on fire, and we learn how this fire caused the Church to grow.
The Holy Spirit set the apostles on fire, and Holy Spirit has the tendency to set our lives on fire as well. And when Jesus sets us on fire, it springs us into action. Nearly five years ago when I was ordained priest, I selected this passage to read because I knew in order for me to be the best priest I can be, I needed that breath, that fire of the Holy Spirit on my life. Bishop Joseph Charron, C.PP.S., invoked the Holy Spirit upon me as he laid hands on me. In his homily, he said that he prayed the Holy Spirit would come upon my life in a powerful way. As I think of all that I have experienced as priest, it has been the effect of the Holy Spirit, setting my life on fire, springing me into action, the work of God at work in my life.
We are in the season of graduations and we are grateful for what graduates have accomplished. But I am also excited for our graduates in how the Holy Spirit will set their hearts on fire as they set out to accomplish their goals and dreams. As we celebrate Pentecost today, may the Lord set our hearts and lives on fire to spring us into action to do his work.
To view the full scripture reading, click here.
Fr. Matt Keller, C.PP.S., is the pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in Glandorf, Ohio.