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Bible Reflections View Comments

Trusting the Movement of the Spirit
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, May 19, 2013
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In the story of Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles, we hear about the small group of Jesus’s closest friends hiding in the upper room, trying to make sense of the hatred that had led to his death, the astonishing mystery of his resurrection and his final departure to return to his Father and the heavenly kingdom. It’s no coincidence that they were spending that time in prayer.

As Jesus had promised, the Holy Spirit comes to them in the form of a strong, driving wind and as tongues of fire. The Spirit fills them with courage, sending them forth to preach—and to live—the Gospel. It didn’t mean that their struggles were over. But it was an undeniable assurance that God was with them.

The gift of the Spirit was about overcoming fear and hiding, shame and regret. It was about opening up the community to the power of the Gospel message. When Blessed John XXIII talked about the Second Vatican Council, he referred to it as opening windows long closed and letting in the Spirit to renew the Church. Like spring cleaning, this is something that needs to be done on a regular basis.

As we celebrate Pentecost this year, we’re more aware than ever of the need for the Spirit’s continued presence in our midst—guiding, inspiring, protecting the Gospel and all that is truly holy from the fear and the secrecy and the mistakes of the past.

Wind and fire are frequent images in the Scriptures for the presence and power of God. As we know all too well from the natural world, fire and wind can be both blessing and curse, can lead to life and death.

The prophets speak of fire as burning away the impurities of metal, or burning that chaff that’s been separated from the wheat. Things that obscure the truth need to be burned away. The fire of the Spirit is able to do that without burning or destroying what is still good and beautiful and true in our faith, in our Church, in our own lives.

Even as we watch events unfolding in the universal Church, we ourselves experience upheavals in our smaller communities—parishes, workplaces, families—and in our own lives. Whenever we’re struggling to break through some obstacle, illness, or misunderstanding, we can call on the fire of the Spirit to strengthen and encourage us.

Pentecost is a new beginning, a fresh start. Taking a new approach is rarely easy. The response of the crowd to the preaching of the apostles on the morning of Pentecost was that surely they must have been drinking. Several times they were thrown into prison for going against the authorities. But they were convinced that the Spirit was leading them in the right direction.

We know from our own lives that attempts to overcome mistakes in our past can haunt us long after the reality is something entirely new and different. The Spirit can help us persist in working against these prejudices and give us the courage to continue to speak out for genuine change.

We go forth not because we’re strong, capable, and sure of ourselves, but because we know that God is with us when we truly do his work. Pentecost reminds us that Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, is in fact still in charge of the Church that he established among his first followers.


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Apollonia: The persecution of Christians began in Alexandria during the reign of the Emperor Philip. The first victim of the pagan mob was an old man named Metrius, who was tortured and then stoned to death. The second person who refused to worship their false idols was a Christian woman named Quinta. Her words infuriated the mob and she was scourged and stoned. 
<p>While most of the Christians were fleeing the city, abandoning all their worldly possessions, an old deaconess, Apollonia, was seized. The crowds beat her, knocking out all of her teeth. Then they lit a large fire and threatened to throw her in it if she did not curse her God. She begged them to wait a moment, acting as if she was considering their requests. Instead, she jumped willingly into the flames and so suffered martyrdom.</p><p>There were many churches and altars dedicated to her. Apollonia is the patroness of dentists, and people suffering from toothache and other dental diseases often ask her intercession. She is pictured with a pair of pincers holding a tooth or with a golden tooth suspended from her necklace. St. Augustine explained her voluntary martyrdom as a special inspiration of the Holy Spirit, since no one is allowed to cause his or her own death.</p> American Catholic Blog We can find Christ among the despised, voiceless, and forgotten of the world. We have to move beyond that which we wish to ignore and forget about: embrace the seemingly un-embraceable, love the unlovable, and dare to know what we most fear and wish to leave unknowable.

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