So right now some of you are asking: “Whose birthday?” Some of you are thinking: “The deacon has lost it sooner than we expected!” Actually what I am talking about is the Church’s birthday! Many Christians believe that on the day of Pentecost, the Church was born.
Now I am going to submit the proposition that there was a chance the Church may not have come into being. Think about it. There are Apostles, and other disciples. Yes, they have witnessed the Resurrection of Jesus, and they did receive his command to go out and preach the Good News to everyone. But they have seen Jesus ascend into heaven, and now they are alone. It would be expected that they are coming down from that spiritual high. Yes, they know Jesus promised to send this Advocate, this Holy Spirit; but he never said when, and what it would mean. Better that they stay under the radar of the Jerusalem temple authorities and the Romans. So maybe the safer course is to stay in the Upper Room, worship together quietly, remain in their comfort zone.
Then one day, during the Jewish Feast of Weeks, known in Greek as Pentecost, they hear this sound like a strong driving wind. Now we New Englanders, we have experienced northeasters, thunderstorms, and hurricanes. We know what a strong wind is like. How it can shake a house. How it will scatter lawn furniture, and scatter toys (which we were supposed to pick up) all around a yard. Well when the Holy Spirit comes to the Apostles and other disciples, it shakes them, shakes them out of their complacency, it blows them out of their comfort zone, and scatters them out into the Jerusalem crowd, who hear the Good News proclaimed.
But that is not all that the Spirit brings with it, “tongues as of fire,” came and rested on each one of them. Now artists have depicted these tongues of fire resting on their heads. I would suggest that the fire entered their hearts, the center of their very being; and rekindled the fire of love they had for Jesus. It reminded them of all that Jesus had taught them, filled them with zeal for the Lord. And when the crowds heard them proclaim the Word with such love, such zeal, such power; thousands were baptized in the name of Jesus, and the Church, this community of faith is born.
So now we have to ask ourselves, where is this faith community, this Church today? If we are to look at Europe, Canada, and these United States, we have seen with our own eyes, the drop in number of members. We have seen the numbers of those persons who say they do not belong to any church at all. We have seen our Hispanic brothers and sisters, both in this country and in Latin and South America, joining the evangelical Pentecostal communities; because they do not see the same zeal, the same fire in our Catholic communities. Pope Francis has preached that among the greatest dangers to the Church are those with lukewarm faith, who lack the courage to proclaim the Gospel.
So the question we all have to ask ourselves is; do we have a lukewarm faith, are we willing to just remain in our comfort zones, our closed rooms. Or can we open ourselves up and let the Holy Spirit in, to let it shake us up, and drive us out into the world, to boldly proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ by word and deed. We all have a part to play in this evangelization; we are all called by the Spirit to different forms of service to one another, and the larger community.
There was a time in early Christian history, when the Church was no longer persecuted; it had become the state religion. It was no longer a challenge to be Christian, and the local churches were becoming lukewarm. Many Christians, men and women, wanted to experience the old zeal, so they went tout into the deserts to live lives of solitude, constant prayer, fasting and service to one another. One day, a young hermit approached an elderly hermit by the name of Abba Lot; and asked his guidance. The young hermit had a deep prayer life, was able to give up all desire for material wealth, but he still felt something was missing from his faith life. So he asked Abba Lot, what should I do? The elder hermit “stood up and stretched his hands towards heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, ‘If you will, you can become all flame.” May we all have the courage to become a flame of the Holy Spirit, and help spread the light of Christ throughout a world in so desperate need of it.