How many of us are alive with the Fire of God’s Spirit?
I look at people today and see only apathy. There is little or no passion in their lives, and very little faith. When I compare the Church of today with the Church of Jerusalem 2000 years ago, I see a passive, languid indifference, not only to the Faith and its expansion, but to life itself. This is a slow, quiet disease, disguised under the interests and undertakings of each individual man. Yet this indifference is there all the same, and it captures the spirit of not only those without the Church, but also those within her arms. This is an indifference that was not present 2000 years ago.
The Church is a missionary Church—always has been. Right at the beginning we see Christ telling his apostles to “Go out to the world!” (cf. Mark 16:15, Matthew 28:19). That has not changed. We are all still called to “go out!”
But do we have that fervent drive and desire that we see in the first apostles?
Pentecost. The birth of the Church. The Holy Spirit descends upon the apostles, driving out their fear like dust before a powerful wind, and replacing that fear with his Gifts. St. Peter, filled with the grace of God, goes out and preaches to the people of Jerusalem (Acts 2). His fear abated by faith and by grace, he leads the new-born Church out of the darkness of the upper room, as a new-born child comes forth, blinking and amazed, from its mother’s womb.
Later, St. Paul is struck by a vision of light, a light which physically blinds him so that he might gain spiritual sight. He who persecuted the believers, who in that persecution denied God as Peter denied Christ, is given a new life in God, in Christ. He too goes out, becoming the foremost apostle to the Gentiles.
Peter and Paul went through trials and living martyrdom, imprisonment and floggings, and ultimately death itself. They did these things, not in order to gain the regard of men and glory for themselves, but to gain glory for Christ. They are among the earliest martyrs, after whom followed thousands, if not millions, of others.
These earliest Christians were alive with the Fire of God’s Spirit. They lived, doing nothing but striving for the glory of God! Are we willing to live as these Christians lived, soli Deo gloria?
This passion I see in the early Church I do not see in today’s Church. Yes, it is a different society now. But should that fact allow for apathy and bored disinterest?
It is easy to think, “If I were visited by Christ in a vision of light, I would be passionate, too. If the Holy Spirit showered me with tongues of flame, I’d be preaching in the streets as well.”
Yet that is the point. In Confirmation, we do receive the Holy Spirit. Confirmation completes what we receive in Baptism, making us ready to go out as apostles to the world. The Catechism says, “‘by the sacrament of Confirmation, [the baptized] are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed’” (1285). Confirmation is Pentecost in our time:
It is evident from its celebration that the effect of the sacrament of Confirmation is the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost.
From this fact, Confirmation brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace: it roots us more deeply in the divine filiation which makes us cry, “Abba! Father!” It unites us more firmly to Christ; it increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us; it renders our bond with the Church more perfect; it gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross (CCC 1302-1303).
The problem is, we don’t have the faith to realize the workings of the Holy Spirit within our lives. But faith is not a feeling, nor does it simply “happen.” Faith is a God-given gift by which we act. Faith is an act by which we give our love and all that matters to us to God.
Sts. Peter and Paul had the faith to act out the will of God in the power of the Holy Spirit. Let us ask God for that same faith, so that we might spread Christ’s message in ardent love and passion.
Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul, Solemnity