Easter is all about heaven. That’s why Jesus died and rose,
in order to create for us a future with him.
So now we come to Pentecost,
which is, if you will, the final “ingredient.”
If you are fixing a recipe, you have to put in the last ingredient;
if you don’t, then it won’t work.
Likewise, without Jesus giving the Holy Spirit,
his plan for us would fail.
We receive the Holy Spirit first in baptism;
If our parents made that decision for us,
Then later it falls to us to ratify that choice.
Our language about this can be misleading.
We talk about “receiving” the Holy Spirit;
But that’s not nearly strong enough.
We also “receive” a text on our phone:
We glance at it and go on our way.
But surely that’s not what we’re talking about here, right?
Better would be the language the Bible uses:
The Prophet Ezekiel talks about dry, dead bones coming to life.
Saint Paul talks about a new birth.
Elsewhere in the Gospel of John, Jesus told Nicodemus:
“you must be born again.”
Or else, take notice of the detail from the book of Acts:
“Fire appeared, and … came to rest on each one of them.”
The key thing about fire is this: unless you contain it,
and it will transform everything it touches.
That is the reason Jesus gives the Holy Spirit:
so that we will be transformed;
so that we will be changed entirely, and become heavenly.
We use the expression, “playing with Fire” –
but God the Holy Spirit is not a plaything;
God does not share Himself with you,
in order to be put on the shelf, or in your pocket,
or worn around your neck like a religious medal.
Quite graciously, the Holy Spirit offers us a partnership;
but only with you or me as the junior partner.
If we seek to contain the fire of the Holy Spirit,
we will quite simply extinguish it.
The Holy Spirit is not an accessory or a hobby or a part-time thing.
When Moses brought the Ten Commandments from Mount Sinai,
he said that they had been written by the “finger of God.”
In the Gospels, Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit in this way,
which makes sense, because the Holy Spirit gives us the power
to obey the law of God written in our hearts.
Now, let me illustrate the two ways we can go:
Either to silence God’s voice in our hearts; or to let God change us.
It is a massive flood and it is filthier than you can imagine.
Here’s the thing: no one who first sees these things is ever blasé.
So: if everyone knows it’s wrong, why is it everywhere?
Look at this terrible crime at the high school in Texas,
unfortunately, not isolated, but another on a list of such crimes.
Everyone wants to know what the problem is;
We all want to explain it.
The problem of evil isn’t so easy; I don’t want to oversimplify.
But I submit to you that at least one part of it we can identify.
We’d like to say these criminals are just delusional;
but what do the people involved say?
“He was entirely normal.” Not crazy.
So let me ask you: do you think these people,
who do these horrible things, to their family, their classmates,
were nourishing their conscience – or in the habit of smothering it?
Most of us will never be that person; but the point is,
when we start down the road of ignoring God in our hearts,
wherever you and I end up, we won’t be the person we were.
And it won’t be sudden: it will be series of small, easy steps.
Now let me make the point in a different way.
Let me tell you about Bernard Nathanson.
He played a key role in legalizing abortion,
Which has cost untold millions of lives.
He himself was responsible for 75,000 abortions.
And he was an atheist.
However tightly he shut out the voice of God,
over the years, he would see and hear people praying outside the abortion facility he ran.
Someone—many someones—prayed for his conversion.
Many someones talked to him about the Lord—
And many someones showed him the example
of living like a Christian.
After a long time, Bernard Nathanson
stopped committing abortions—
Some time later, he became a pro-life advocate.
Then, he started going to Mass.
And after many years, he was baptized and confirmed
And received the Body and Blood of the Lord.
So you see, it can go either way.
If you want to put out the Fire of the Holy Spirit, you can do it.
There is darkness beyond the darkness; and we can decide to like it.
The Fire can be kindled anew.
But it only works if you let God be in charge.
The habit of “no,” “not now,” “that’s too much!” and “later,”
can be – and must be –
replaced with “yes, Lord” and “whatever it takes!”
and “now is the time.”
The place to rekindle the Fire is first in the silence of our own hearts,
and then in the sanctuary of the confessional.
I wish I could tell you that it takes only one good confession,
and then the Fire runs wild, and all our battles are won.
But that rarely happens – because that would mean
we conquered one set of sins, only to be consumed by spiritual pride.
No, it is a painful mercy that conversion usually takes great patience.
What happens is that you and I are a kind of “reverse fire fighter.”
The task of our local Russia volunteer fire department
is gradually to contain and kill a fire.
The bigger it is, the longer it takes.
But our job – with the Holy Spirit –
is to help the Fire spread into every corner of our lives!
It takes time and daily choices: will I let the Fire of God go here?
And here? And even here?
Will I unwrap my fingers gripping tightly this vice,
this inordinate love, and let it be consumed and transformed?
It starts with a single “yes”; followed by about a million more!
* I made these changes after the 5 pm Mass.