Pentecost. Come Holy Spirit!

Pentecost12For the past seven weeks we have kept the Easter Candle in the sanctuary of our church, lighting it every time we have celebrated Mass. The living flame of the Easter Candle reminded us that Christ is alive, that he rose from the dead just as the sun rises each morning to put an end to the darkness of the night. It symbolized the two miraculous pillars – smoke by day and fire by night – that had guided the ancient Israelites out of Egypt, through the desert, and to the Promised Land. Now it is Christ, the Risen Lord, who is our pillar of smoke and pillar of fire, our sure guide out of slavery to sin, through this world of trials and temptations, and into the Promised Land of Heaven.But today we remove the Easter Candle from our sanctuary. Until next Easter, we will only use it during baptism ceremonies, when Christ’s risen life is given for the first time to new members of the Church. Does the removal of the Easter Candle mean that Christ is no longer among us? No. The sanctuary lamp beside the Tabernacle reminds us that Christ hasn’t’ gone on vacation. Rather, today is Pentecost, the day when Christ’s risen life was entrusted to the Church by the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, who descended like tongues of fire on the Apostles nine days after Christ has ascended into heaven. That new season in the life of the Church is paralleled by our new liturgical season, Ordinary Time, when we take the Easter Candle out of the sanctuary, because we ourselves become living Easter Candles, burning flames of wisdom, pillars of Christian faith and love spreading Christ’s hope in the world. Now we have to make sure we keep the flame burning in our hearts. If we do, it will give light and warmth to those around us without our even realizing it. Too many Christians have let the flame die out. They call themselves Christians, but they live mediocre lives. They have none of Christ’s wisdom, courage, virtue, or joy, so they can give none of it to those around them. But today, Pentecost, God will renew the flame in each of our souls, and it will be up to us to keep it burning, to feed the flame. First, we have to make sure that prayer is our highest priority in life. What oxygen is for a flame, prayer is for our Christian identity. If you take away the oxygen, the flame will sputter and die. If we don’t make an effort to pray each day, we will become joyless, mediocre Christians. We also can make better use of the sacrament of confession. When a candle is lit for a long time, excess wax can accumulate and start to stifle the flame. That wax has to be poured or cut away so the flame can thrive again. When we go about our lives in a selfish world, we inevitably do all kinds of selfish things, and that stifles the flame of Christian wisdom in our lives. Confession is how God cleans away the stifling wax. Today, let’s pray for a new Pentecost in our lives, our parish, and our world, and let’s promise to do our part to make that prayer come true.