Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator
In order to truly appreciate the Pentecost experience, one must try to place themselves into the Middle Eastern experience of two millennia ago. People of the twenty-first century rely almost completely on the power they generate from fossil fuels such as coal and oil. However, the apostles knew nothing of such power. One of the primary sources of power for them was the wind. Secondly, they relied upon fire to burn animal dung to heat their ovens and their tents or dwellings.
This thought barely crosses our minds as we read the account of Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles. However, if we pay close attention to the manifestation of the Holy Spirit, it comes in wind and fire. In fact, all theophanies or experiences of God are usually surrounded by wind and fire. Think of Moses on Sinai or Elijah on Horeb. Think of the pillar of fire and the pillar of cloud that accompanied the Israelites in the desert.
The Scriptures tend to speak of God anthropomorphically. We hear of the hand of the Lord, the mighty arm of God, and the mouth of God. Such images of God are used to try to capture God's power. However, when the Scriptures speak of God without using these terms, the sacred authors look to the elements of wind and fire.
Having experienced the wind and the tongues of fire, the apostles begin to speak and their audience begins to hear in all of the various languages of the world. This detail also speaks to us of the power of the Holy Spirit; namely, the power to forgive sin. Ever since the pride and arrogance of those people who tried to build a tower to reach the heavens in the Book of Genesis, language has confounded the ability of men and women to communicate with each other. Even today we find this to be the truth. Yet with the power of the Holy Spirit in their sails, the apostles boldly went forth to preach the Good News of Jesus, the crucified Savior who had been raised. The Holy Spirit was given to them for the forgiveness of sin, the very sin that confounded their speech.
From that point on, we hear of how the Holy Spirit changed the lives of believers. God's power was made accessible for those who accept the gift of the Holy Spirit. No wonder that St. Paul can proclaim in his Letter to the Philippians that all things are possible in Christ Jesus.