This Pentecost we face a stark choice! This Pentecost we can choose to fan into flame the fire of the Spirit. Or we can choose to be consumed by the flames of violence. Such violence is not only in the hearts of others but, if we are honest, these smoldering flames are in our own hearts. Politely they are called resentments, prejudgements, and many other names. Flames of violence nonetheless.
The story of the two wolves
A grandfather once sat beside a crackling campfire with his grandchildren, and he told them a story of a fight between two wolves. He described the two wolves as being polar opposites.
One wolf represented anger, jealousy, resentment, frustration, anxiousness, negativity, hatred, insecurity, stress, lack of self-belief and self-loathing.
The other wolf represented the opposite. He stood for self-belief, certainty, security, love, honesty, fun, fulfillment, compassion, joy, peace, integrity, abundance and laughter.
The grandfather described the fight between the two wolves, and then cautioned his grandchildren that the fight was not going on only between the wolves. “The fight”, he told them, “is going on inside each and every one you.”
The children gasped, and after a few minutes silence, one of them asked, “Granddad, which wolf won the fight?”
The grandfather swiftly responded, “The wolf that wins the fight is the one that you feed the most!”
The two flames
The flame of the spirit
We all know the story of the first Pentecost. (Acts 2:1-4). “tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.”
These flames transformed ordinary people, frightened, confused, and insecure people, to boldly proclaim the Good News, especially to those on the margins. even at the cost of their lives.
Will we fan into the flame of the tongues of fire that the Holy Spirit pours out on us?
The flames of violence
This Pentecost weekend has seen an eruption of the flames of violence. There are so many flames of violence – structural and personal. There is more than enough violence to go around without needing to be fanned. And it is not only the violence we see on TV. We must also confront the violence in our own hearts.
Many of us sit back, acting as armchair quarterbacks, and pass judgment on what we see from an artificial distance. We make judgments and assume that we don’t react to wrongs in our lives with such outrage.
But if we think we are not violent, think again.
Just look at how we handle the polarization in our country today. There are, after all, many kinds of violence we inflict on those we disagree with every day or simply do not understand. In my mind, these seeds of violence are far more sinister than other, more blatant forms of violence we experience today. Precisely because we do not recognize them! They are at the root of the more obvious displays of violence.
Which will we flame?
Jesus told us “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons and daughters of God … You have learned how it was said, ‘You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy’; but I say to you, Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you. In this way, you will be daughters and sons of your Creator in heaven.”
The apostle Paul challenged Timothy “I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you.” 2 Timothy 1:6:
St. Vincent reminded the Daughters of Charity “you are destined to represent the Goodness of God to those poor
people. … like a flame of love that enters the heart of those to whom she speaks (CCD:X:268, 269).
On Pentecost Sunday, let us call on the fire of the Holy Spirit to ignite the church in our work of proclaiming “peace on Earth”, the Good News of Jesus Christ, our God who sided with the oppressed always, who flipped tables and demanded reform fiercely, and who, as the ultimate peacemaker, breathed his last breath at the hands of a corrupt empire.
In the spirit of Pentecost and in honor of all victims of violence of many kinds, let us commit to extinguishing the fires of racial supremacy and policies of brutality. With equal fervor, let us also commit to stoking the flames of mutual understanding, respect, and love to the ends of the earth.
Peace is everyone’s task. How can we as individuals flame the fires of the Spirit?
One of the ways in which we can fan the fire of the spirit is to use three simple words – “tell me more.” Help me to understand what you are experiencing, where, and why you are hurting.
Now is the time for us as a church to take the fire of Pentecost seriously.
TELL ME MORE…
- What is my reaction when someone honestly says to me “Tell me more”?
- How would these three words kindle the flame of the Spirit?
- Come Holy Spirit. Tell me more! Come quickly… especially to my heart.
This post first appeared on Vincentian Mindwalk.