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Blow, Gabriel, blow!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

From Acts 2
When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. 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. – From Acts 2

Jewish travelers filled Jerusalem for their early harvest festival, the Feast of Weeks. It has been seven weeks since the Feast of First Fruits, also the day of Jesus’ resurrection. Watching Jesus disappear, hearing his final words of encouragement, left the disciples with one mission during their time of waiting: pray.

How long, O Lord, how long? The Catholic practice of praying “a novena” honors their nine-day vigil. They missed their friend Jesus so much. They prayed as they listened to the sounds of travelers coming to Jerusalem for the festival. They talked with them when they went for food. What will happen next? And when?

Then on that 10th day after Jesus’ ascension, the Holy Spirit Storm struck. We want to be there. Trumpeters in churches around the world blast their horns, recalling the sound of the mighty wind. Cole Porter’s song is set on Judgment Day, but when we heard it at Parkland College we wanted to jump out of our seats. The Holy Spirit fire fell on us too.

One of Paul’s most deliberate imperatives simply says, “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire” (1 Thessalonians 5). On this day of Pentecost, we clothe our preachers with red vestments and celebrate the fire. If you’ve experienced the burning touch of God inside you, it’s a moment you will never forget and never devalue.

We do, of course, devalue, and we do forget. God wants us either cold or hot, but lukewarm is so much more comfortable. All the more reason to be reminded today of the fiery tongues on those men and women’s heads, and their excited words in languages they did not know.

We no longer need be contained by the curse of Babel. We are forever more than isolated, uncomprehending individuals afraid of each other. Living in fear is not necessary when I know how much I’m loved. This knowledge is more precious than jewels. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit, and it is ours forever.

Lord, on this fine day you bring us all, singing, celebrating, jumping up and down before the gates of heaven. We are spoken for, and the Holy Spirit cries, “Open wide, you mighty gates!” Oh, Lord, let me know this truth beyond any other, and recollect your joy day by day by day.

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