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Tongues of fire to hearts on fire

We celebrate Pentecost Sunday 50 days after Easter Sunday. This marks the end of the Easter season. This also gives us a continuing reminder that Jesus keeps His promise to the people he calls friends — that he never lets us down.

The promise that Christ gave to His apostles was that He would send an Advocate to keep his loved ones company in their continuing mission of sharing the Good News to the world.

This presence of the Holy Spirit among the people of God was seen by Jesus’ friends as tongues of fire resting on their heads. It is an image of God’s continuing presence as they were given the gifts of Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of the Lord.

Filled with God’s fulfilled promise, the Apostles encountered a new way of looking at the world. Consequently, they are able to proclaim that Jesus is alive in their hearts and in their lives. With renewed confidence, they are able to leave behind their insecurities at the upper room and become sharers of their encounters with God to the farthest reaches of the earth.

This is the same Spirit that we share. We also share the same gifts that the Spirit gives to us in our present time and place. As we take comfort in the gifts of the Holy Spirit seen in the images of the tongues of fire, it benefits us to take a closer look at its movements in our lives.

How does the Spirit stir our hearts? Do we share the same experience of the two men walking towards Emmaus with their hearts burning for Jesus? It is an experience that is not entirely joyful but rather disturbing at times. It involves a searching while being on the move. It also involves a remembering of how we have been guided along the way. It serves as an invitation that despite life’s hurts, we are able to hold on to the hope that Jesus is with us until the end of time.

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Let me share to you a snippet of how I witnessed the Spirit of Jesus moving today. A priest friend of mine visited us a month ago at the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa City. He shared to me this story of his experience at the Holy Eucharist:

“This noon I cried at mass, after the inmates sang ‘salamat, salamat, O Panginoon.’ These inmates — poor, uneducated, in a miserable situation of lack, unfreedom, discomfort, could still sing their gratitude to the Lord. The intensity of their gratitude further pierced my heart, making me recall the truth that I was blessed with so much that my sinful heart could ever ask for.

“It was gripping to hear those words, `salamat Panginoon’ from people who have so much less in life and without much to look forward to. It was beautifully painful in the sense that my heart fell for them in their misery and poverty, but painful, too, because I would, every now and then, fail to realize that in my life I have been recipient of so much blessing.

“Before the end of the Mass, I told the inmates how grateful I was for the brief encounter with them. In the couple of masses I celebrated with them, I felt holy, bathed in their sincere and powerful prayers, and charged by their loud, unabashed songs of praise. Nothing like that outside. I felt holy, not because of my status, but because of their utter need of grace and God’s delight in them — they are God’s special friends. I felt purified, humbled, cleansed by their fervent prayers and deepest longing for connection with people and our good God.”

May God’s presence continue to be with you and move you!

Let me end by imparting with you a prayer that I learned at the Jesuit seminary: “Direct we beseech you O Lord all our actions and carry them on by your gracious assistance, that every thought, word, and action of ours may always begin from you and by you be happily ended.”

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