Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order, often ended his letters to confreres who were going to the missions with the words ‘go set the world on fire.” Saint Catherine of Sienna used similar imagery when she declared “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” In our first reading today (Acts 2:1-11) we hear how, on the day of Pentecost, the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit. This event happened after what appeared to be “tongues of fire” came to rest on each of them. This outpouring of the Holy Spirit is the moment when the church was empowered to carry on the Mission of Christ in the world, something that each of us shares in by virtue of our baptism.
Pope Francis, in his message for World Mission Sunday this year reminds us of this when he writes “Christ was the first to be sent, as a “missionary” of the Father (cf. Jn 20:21), and as such, he is the Father’s “faithful witness” (cf. Rev 1:5). In a similar way, every Christian is called to be a missionary and witness to Christ. And the Church, the community of Christ’s disciples, has no other mission than that of bringing the Gospel to the entire world by bearing witness to Christ. To evangelize is the very identity of the Church.
So when Ignatius of Loyola says “Go set the world on fire” and St Catherine says “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire,” they are really saying “go and share with the world the mission that you received from Christ, the mission that comes from the heart of God, the mission that you became part of the moment you were baptised. Go and help the world to find a different way – a way that reflects the inner life of God, a way that speaks of unity, a way that speaks of love, a way that recognises the dignity of every person you meet, a way that liberates people from their fears and burdens, a way that frees people to be who they are meant to be.
Central to this mission that comes from the heart of God is love. This is echoed in today’s Gospel (John 14: 15-16; 23-26) when Jesus declares “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” It is love that transforms, it is love that heals, it is love that unites, it is love that frees us to be the best version of ourselves.
As part of today’s Mass we get to listen to an ancient poem or sequence that speaks eloquently of the work of the Holy Spirit. It takes the form of a prayer that the Spirit’s work will be felt in our church and world today. The following is a short excerpt of the poem:
“Come, Holy Spirit, come…! / Shed a ray of light divine! / Come, Father of the poor! / Come, within our bosoms shine. / Heal our wounds, our strength renew; / On our dryness pour your dew; / Wash the stains of guilt away; / Bend the stubborn heart and will; / Melt the frozen, warm the chill; / Guide the steps that go away. / On the faithful, who adore / And confess you, evermore / Give them virtue’s sure reward, / Give them your salvation, Lord; / Give them joys that never end. Amen.”
As Christians we have received the same Holy Spirit that fell on the apostles at Pentecost. Jesus comes and stands in our midst and sends us forth. “As the father sent me, so I send you.” He sends us into the world armed with the knowledge and assurance of His Love, empowered with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and asks us to make a difference.
Pentecost is about empowerment and about new possibility. It is the undeniable certainty that the world can be a better place. It is the assurance that out of death comes new life. It is a reminder that we have a part to play in bringing God’s plan to fruition. The Spirit continues to abide with us, to support us, to lift us up, to encourage us and to send us into the world as witnesses – witnesses to God’s goodness, God’s love and God’s mercy.
So today as we celebrate Pentecost, let us take courage as we open ourselves to the gift of the Holy Spirit, so that God’s plan for the world might become a reality.
We have added a Prayer Section to our website. People who
wish to pray for the Missions will find the outline of the Mission Prayer there. Also, people who wish to request prayers may submit a confidential request on the website. please visit https://missio-sacbc.org/payer-requests/