It was dark, when we stood there. It was cold and very windy. Yet we stood there, outside, unsheltered, waiting. Do you remember that night, seven weeks ago? It was the the Easter vigil, the height of the sacred Triduum, the holiest night of the year. We stood there, waiting for a new fire to shatter the darkness. We stood there, hoping to witness the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Do you remember, on that night, how our bishop blessed this Paschal candle? Lit and held aloft, it led us into the shelter of the Church, as we sang, "Christ our light! Thanks be to God!" From its new and holy fire, each of us lit a small taper. The flame spread, hand to hand, until this whole Church blazed with light, with the light of Christ.
What a dramatic moment! What a vision of the Risen Christ!
This movement from dark to light, from outside into the shelter of the Church, is the movement of the Holy Spirit within us. Each of us is touched by the Holy Spirit, with the gift of faith. He wants to set us on fire with faith, so that we can make the whole world blaze with the light of Christ.
At that first Pentecost, God the Holy Spirit set the hearts of all the disciples on fire. But at first, they were hiding in the dark. We hear in the Gospel about their fear. They have locked themselves away in a hidden room, because they fear dying, like Christ. But He, the merciful Lord, comes to find them, and He gives them the gift of peace. "Peace be with you." And how do they respond? "At the sight of the Lord the disciples rejoiced."
Just like they were at first, we too are often afraid to live our faith. We fear being rejected by our co-workers if we don't join them in foul language or gossip. We fear our lives will be more unhappy if we give up false worldly pleasures. We fear to make the sacrifices necessary for the true good of our family, or our neighbor. We fear being ridiculed by family and friends if we pray too much. We fear where the Holy Spirit will lead us, if we give ourselves too much to God. And so we lock our faith away -- behind closed lips, when we should speak out clearly; behind a closed heart, when we should love boldly.
There is some basis for these fears. If we try to live our faith fully, we will face rejection and scorn, and we may be lead where we do not want to go. But just as in our readings today, fear is not the whole story. There is also the unexpected discovery of Christ's peace and joy. Just as He sought out the disciples in their hiding place, He also seeks us out, passing through the locked doors of our closed lips and closed heart. He calls us to meet Him with joy here, in this Holy Mass, so that we can stand up boldly for Him out there, in our daily lives.
Because we do have His mission to fulfill. "As the Father has sent me, so I send you." We too have been called to preach the Gospel without fear. We proclaim the Good News in words when people ask about our faith. We proclaim the Good News with actions to our families and neighbors, our co-workers and friends. We too possess the gift of the Holy Spirit, just like the disciples at that first Pentecost. Our Pentecost is our baptism into Christ's Body, when the fire of the Holy Spirit first set us ablaze.
As we end the Easter season, we will move the Paschal candle from its place of honor at the front of the sanctuary, to the entrance of the Church. There it will both greet us with divine light, and send us forth to be the light of the world. Christ is our light – thanks be to God! Do not be afraid, but trust in Christ, and in the Holy Spirit, who fills our hearts with the bright fire of His love. The flame will spread, hand to hand, until the whole world blazes with the light of Christ.