Let Holy Spirit fill your heart with fire of love


The saying: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is for me synonymous with a conscious awareness of the presence of God. I was reminded of this when an email from Franciscan Father Richard Rohr landed in my inbox describing an experience of being surrounded by what he could only define as holy.

He wrote: “I had the sense that the world was good, I was good, and I was part of the good world — and I just wanted to stay there. It was like being taken to another world — the real world, the world as it’s meant to be, where the foundation is love and God is in everything.”

The interesting thing is that the priest was only 5 years old at the time.

Whether we view his experience as an epiphany, enlightenment or a spiritual awakening, his heightened awareness reminds us that since that first Pentecost, the Holy Spirit is present on earth every moment of every day whether we are aware of it or not. Surveys have shown that when persons are asked if they’ve ever had a “spiritual experience,” most respond, “yes.”

Most people experience the presence of God as an intimate encounter, revealed neither by a driving wind nor tongues of fire. More often than not, the Spirit of God comes upon us quietly.

A beautiful sunset, an infant’s smile, keeping watch at the bedside of a loved one may cause tears of joy to spring from the deepest recesses of the soul. The experience, though unexpected, overwhelms and leaves an impression that is impossible to forget, not unlike that one that Richard Rohr described.

Such sacred symphonies may be triggered by sights and sounds, but the real action is an interior one that mystics describe as “I know not what.” When the human heart is touched by the presence of God, words fall short, yet it leaves an awareness of all that is holy, changing the way we see. Accompanied by a deep abiding peace, the encounter blots out all that is not of God.

It’s what led Julian of Norwich to exclaim, “All shall be well” despite the suffering she endured. Similarly, St. Catherine of Genoa noted, “When you can see Christ in all things (including yourself!), you will see and live differently.”

That’s the real message of Pentecost. When we are touched by the Holy Spirit, we see the world through the eyes of God, gifting us with a heart that is able to love the sinner, even though we despise the sin.

Sin is sensational, which is why the media focus on it, but as Christians, we have been given a different mandate. We are called to spread the Good News, and by the grace of God to love the sinner and overcome evil by doing good.

It’s what impelled Francis of Assisi to embrace the leper, which changed his life. I suspect there are lepers in most every life. People we avoid because they look different, have different ideologies and belief systems, or because their personality is one that rubs us the wrong way.

Just as love is communicated through our actions, so disapproval is similarly communicated. Whether we realize it or not, body language speaks volumes and so does the tone of our voice.

No matter how eloquent our words may be, studies have shown that only 8% of what a person says is heard. It’s a person’s demeanor and the tone of their voice that stays with an audience.

Perhaps that’s the reason the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles as a rushing wind and appeared as tongues of fire. In the absence of words, the message that the apostles received was loud and clear, and it changed their lives.

With hearts aflame, they went forth proclaiming all that they had seen when they walked with Jesus. How ironic that through Jesus, the Word of God was made visible and yet his silence during his passion and crucifixion speak volumes about the power of God.

During his public life, Jesus’ words were backed up by his actions as he went about doing good, reaching out to sinners and the marginalized.

Tertullian, (A.D. 160 –220), known as the “Father of Latin Theology,” was raised in a pagan family, educated to become a lawyer and civil servant in the Roman government. When he converted to Christianity it was because of what he saw and is best known for saying, “See how Christians love one another.” I wonder if the same could be said about us.

And so, we pray, “Come, Holy Spirit, fill our hearts with the fire of your love”!

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