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Catching fire

Sunday, June 8, 2014

John 20:19-22 and Acts 2:1-3
Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” …

They were all in one place together. Suddenly there came from the sky a noise like strong driving wind, and 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

Forty days after Jesus’ resurrection, the church celebrates Jesus’ ascension into heaven. And fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection, on the Pente-cost (Greek, Latin and Old English for “fiftieth,” the church celebrates the coming down from heaven of the Holy Spirit.

Since the Exodus, the Jewish people have celebrated the Feast of First Fruits on the 50th day after the second day of Passover.

Jesus breathed on his disciples. These celebrations can breathe on us. As Jesus said, the wind blows where it will, and when it blows on us we can receive the gift, let our hair down, let it fly, and feel God’s pleasure.

Ron Rolheiser says when I pray I “lift my mind and heart to God.” Unlike Icarus, I don’t fly with wings of my own making, which fall apart in the heat of life. The prayer prayed in me by the Holy Spirit lifts me, up where the air is clear. I can glide there and sing, and feel the closeness of God’s heart where mine beats, and be loved.

And the spark becomes a flame. As I catch fire I discover, in Rolheiser’s words, that God is endlessly “overgenerous, overlavish, overextravagant, overprodigous, overrich, and overpatient. If nature, scripture, and experience are to be believed, God is the absolute antithesis of everything that is stingy, miserly, frugal, narrowly calculating, or sparing in what it doles out.”

God’s “total empathy” ensures that there is nothing about me that God does not love. When this creative Father God speaks himself into me, I understand others, and speak their language and love them and share the fire. This gift is endlessly given and made to be endlessly given away. And no matter how many invitations I’ve spurned, there are always more. Always more. Always more. Come and be my son, come and be my daughter, God says. I will always be with you.

And so there is joy in the kingdom of God. Gratitude marks every moment and sparks every relationship and covers all our prayers. Thank you thank you thank you. In the vast silence that carries all the moments of all our lives into one eternity, that’s all there is to say.

I am held up every moment by your strength and care, Lord. I lift my mind and heart to you and discover how close you are. Quiet the noise in my mind, give my heart strength and peace, and blow on me, breath of God.

Blessings on your summer, and on your “ordinary time,” as the church calendar calls it. I’ll resume writing on the first Sunday of Advent, which this year is on November 30.

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