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 of them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. Now there were devout Jews from every nations under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language.
Every year the Jews would gather for the feast of Pentecost. Originally “Pentecost referred to a Jewish harvest feast, but it eventually became a feast to commemorate the Law given at Sinai, which took place fifty days after the first Passover in Egypt. Pentecost, therefore was a prominent feast in the calendar of Israel. The term Pentecost refers to the “fiftieth day,” that is, the day God gave the Law to Moses on Sinai” (Ligouri Catholic Bible Study). So there are many Jews from all over gathered here. When I try to equate this to something I’ve experienced I think about the Religious Education Congress in Los Angles. Or the Focus Conference of 10,000 young adults that just happened a few months ago in the south. Or a Steubenville Conference for teens, or a D-Week hosted by NET Ministries. (These are all large groups of Catholics gathered together for mass, talks, prayer, praise and worship, and fellowship). Basically, there were a ton of people around during Pentecost and it was exciting!
During this time, the apostles are in the upper when, “there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind” (v.2) In John 3:8 the Spirit and wind are synonymous. The sound of a great rush of wind announces a new action of God in the history of salvation. Notice that a second element, namely fire, is used to express the Holy Spirit. We read that, “tongues as of fire” rested upon the apostle’s head. Can you imagine this all happening? You’re praying, you hear a loud noise, so loud that the whole town is in an uproar, and then you look up to see FIRE above your friend’s head?! Holy smokes! I know I would be dumbstruck. How did the apostles react at that moment within that small upper room? They could see the ruckus below. Did they come down from where they were staying? I imagine Peter walking around, staring in reverence at his brothers and sisters who had flames above their heads. I can see him now reaching above their heads to touch this flame. Would it burn him? Was it real??? This was the promise of the Father fulfilled. Our Heavenly Father keeps his promises. The apostles no longer had to hide, be afraid, or wait to share the Gospel. Now they had the bold, confident courage to speak to the ends of the earth (Rome). They had the virtue of fortitude to die for this Gospel.
Reflection: Wind and Fire are both devastatingly destructive forces of nature. I think about green skies and tornados in in the Midwest. Growing up in California, we were always warned about forest fires being one of the greatest dangers. Smoky the Bear engrained in us, “Only you can prevent forest fires!” I now live in Arizona where fires have devoured the already barren lands. Why would God want to use these terms to communicate his being? Wind and fire tell us about God’s love at work in our lives. The love of the Holy Spirit is not a warm fuzzy. His love is fierce. His love is life altering. His love blows down and burns up the old so that the new can come about within our lives. How is the Holy Spirit doing this in your life? Shalom. Xoxo.