Pentecost: Lighting the World on Fire with the New Evangelization

There is a scene in the 1991 film, Backdraft, when Robert De Niro’s character asks Donald Sutherland’s character (an imprisoned pyromaniac), “what do you want to do to the whole world Ronald”, and he replies “burn it all.”

If you have never see the movie, I encourage you to see because it’s a great film, however the reason why I quote this film is because as Catholic Christians living in the world, we should want to do the same thing to the world, but in a Evangelistic way. We should be seeking to light the world on fire with the light of the Holy Spirit.

As Catholics, we should be spiritual fire-starters for Jesus Christ and His Church. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus says, “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled” (Lk 12:49). Obviously, I am not talking about starting literal fires, but I am speaking about playing with the fire of Pentecost and the fire that we receive in the Sacrament of Confirmation. As Catholics, it is our fundamental duty to evangelize the world by playing with the fire of the Holy Spirit.

At the direction of a good friend of mine, a few years ago, I read George Weigel’s book – Evangelical Catholicism. His understanding of the Catholic Church and the deep reform (not doctrinal reform) that is needed for the Church in the 21st century is prophetic, and remember we are only at the beginning of it. If you have never read it, I would highly encourage you to do so.

In Chapter 1, there is a section called – Pentecost, Again. He begins this section by stating that through the pontificates of Pope St. John XXIII (and the Second Vatican Council) and Pope St. John Paul II, a new Pentecost is on the horizon in the Catholic Church. The marching orders that will lead this new Pentecost is the New Evangelization.

In his encyclical, Redemptoris Missio, Pope St. John Paul II says this –

God is opening before the Church the horizons of a humanity more fully prepared for the sowing of the Gospel. I sense that the moment has come to commit all of the Church’s energies to a new evangelization and to the mission ad gentes. No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples.

Now this is no easy task, especially in a Church that seems to be somewhat conflicted with herself today, but if the mission can be met, it means that we who take on this great call will have to play with fire.

To encourage you to “play with fire”, here are some dynamic and powerful quotes from Evangelical Catholicism and the section on the new Pentecost –

Quoting Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger –

“the Holy Spirit is fire; whoever does not want to be burned should not come near him.” This fire…”is an “inimitable” part of the “relationship between Christ, Holy Spirit, and Church.””

Fire of the Holy Spirit and the Body of Christ –

“The fire of the Holy Spirit purifies, inspires, and fuses men and women together into a new human community, the Church. Through each of its members, and in them as a whole, the Church is the Body of Christ on earth.”

Fire of the Holy Spirit, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger  –

“Faith is a tongue of fire that burns us and melts us so that ever more it is true: I am no longer I…When we yield to the burning fire of the Holy Spirit, being Christian becomes comfortable only as first glance…Only when we do not fear the tongue of fire and the storm it brings with it does the Church become the icon of the Holy Spirit. And only then does she open the world to the light of God.”

Evangelical Catholicism is Not Easy –

“The cultural Catholicism of the past was “comfortable” because it fit neatly within the ambient public culture, causing little chafing between one’s life “in the Church” and one’s life “in the world.”…Evangelical Catholicism does not seek to “get along”; it seeks to convert.”

Evangelical Catholicism in the Church –

“…Lukewarm Catholicism has no future: submitting to the transforming fire of the Holy Spirit is not longer optional…Evangelical requires a generosity about time from the laity, who must make time amid the rush of postmodern life for a deeper encounter with Christ than that permitted by an hour’s worth of weekly worship…more attention to sacramental preparation and sacramental discipline…”

Evangelical Catholicism, Community, and Holiness –

“Evangelical Catholicism builds up the community of the faithful not for the sake of the community but for the sake of a common reception of the mysteries of the faith, which in turn become the fonts of grace…The tongues of from which the Church is formed thus become the fire of mission by which the world is set ablaze…Evangelical Catholicism calls the entire Church to holiness for the sake of mission.”

I don’t know about you, but these words from George Weigel get me fired up…pun intended! As Catholics, it is time, now more than ever before, for us to light the world on fire with the love of Jesus Christ and the Church. Find strength in the Sacraments, especially the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist – they unite us with Jesus Christ and each other, the Body of Christ.

In the book, The Spirit of Catholicism (another great text!) Karl Adam says, “Twelve simple, uneducated fishermen revolutionized the world, and that with no other instrument than their new faith and their readiness to die for that faith.”

If the Twelve Apostles could do this, imagine what we can do with 2,000 years of Scripture and Tradition behind us. My fellow Catholics – Go! Evangelize! And the set the world on fire