Holy Spirit fans flame of faith, drives out fear

| Father Michael Johnson | June 4, 2019 | 0 Comments
Tongariro National Park, New Zealand. iStock-Joseph Mayans

Tongariro National Park, New Zealand. iStock-Joseph Mayans

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” Samwise Gamgee offers these words of wisdom to his friend, Frodo Baggins, as they embark on a journey into an unknown future as captured in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings.”

The allegory of the “Lord of the Rings” meets reality in the lives of the Apostles. Ordinary men given the commission to do the impossible, to carry the impossible, to be the impossible.

This Sunday we encounter the Apostles as they begin their apostolic journeys. Yet, this Sunday’s first reading begins with them locked away in a home. The word “apostle” means one who is sent, but they did not go. After the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, they did not proclaim the Gospel. They did not fulfill their mission, their purpose. They were not true to their name.

In one of the three Gospel options that we might hear this week, we are told why they could not go to begin their journeys, “When the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews” (Jn 20:19). The Apostles’ fear prevented them from going where Christ had sent them, and so they locked themselves in a home. Locked away with them was the Gospel message.

Though the Apostles were content to cower in fear, God was not because, “Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim” (Acts 2:3-4). The Holy Spirit came, swept them off their feet with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and sent them out the door. Three thousand people were baptized by the end of the day (Acts 2:41).

The Holy Spirit would quickly drive the Apostles throughout the Roman Empire and well beyond its borders. They went out and courageously proclaimed Christ and set the world on fire with their message.

Today, the rite of confirmation is not accompanied by tongues of flame descending upon our brow, but rather the hand of the bishop imparts the sacred chrism with the words, “Be sealed with the Holy Spirit.” The sealing of the Holy Spirit should unlock us for the mission placed before us. Yet all too often, we react like the Apostles before Pentecost. Too often, we lock the Gospel message behind closed doors. Too often, we refuse to allow ourselves to be swept off our feet and out into the world. God is not content to allow this to happen.

I remember the first time that I felt the Holy Spirit move in me after my confirmation. It was four years after I had received the sacrament, when I had no other choice but to go with my sister to the Church of St. Paul in Ham Lake — the local charismatic parish. I resisted, I bargained, I said ‘no,’ but ultimately I had to go with her if I was going to get to Mass. That Sunday, Feb. 17, 2002, was the day I stepped out of my front door and was swept off my feet, and the wind of the Spirit drove me into the seminary and beyond.

This Pentecost, ask the Holy Spirit to fan into flame the gift you were given in baptism and confirmation. Ask the Holy Spirit to rock your world, this world, once again. Ask the Holy Spirit to aid you in your mission to proclaim the Gospel.

Father Johnson is the judicial vicar of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Sunday, June 9

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Category: Daily Scriptures, Featured