Witnessing a brilliant flash



I was driving to an all-day planning session with our diocesan college-campus ministers, enjoying a beautiful morning, when a flash of yellow grabbed my attention. Before I could identify the source, it was gone, but I knew I had seen something. As if channeling the intro to the 1950’s Superman television show, I found myself asking, “Was that a bird? A plane?” Suddenly, like the Phoenix rising from the flames, a yellow plane burst from the treetops in a graceful yet severe arc. I watched in amazement as the crop-duster dove like a Kamikaze toward the farmer’s field, leveled out, then shot skyward like a gleaming rocket. For a split second, I was 7 years old again, standing at Weir Cook Airport in Indianapolis watching planes land with my Pop.

The bright yellow of that crop-duster is nearly blinding on a sunny day, the contrast of the unmistakable plane against a blue sky. I have seen this crop-duster take off from Evansville Regional on a number of occasions, but I had never seen it at work until this day; it was magnificent. I wondered what the pilot must feel as the G’s push him back in his seat as he yanks the stick backward forcing the nose of the plane into the air and launching it into a chaotic rollercoaster climb. I imagine it to be exhilarating.

How many times has that particular pilot made the same blistering attack on unseen targets in a farmer’s field? How many flights had the pilot made that day by the time I spotted his craft? As unbelievable as it might be to me, that pilot may just be doing a job, feeling no more exhilaration than most of us feel on our daily commute. I pray that isn’t true. I pray the pilot jumps out of bed in the morning with a sense of dignity, recognizing that God has chosen him for a task that makes 53-year-old men turn into 7-year-old boys as they revel in his work. But what’s that old adage about familiarity breeding contempt? Inconceivable as it may be, some people who do spectacular things may no longer feel the thrill of them.

It seems to me that so many of us stumble our way to Mass, wishing we were still drinking our coffee at home, having forgotten the joy of our salvation. Yet Jesus, God-made-man, the Incarnation, sent the Holy Spirit to invigorate us; to light us on fire with excitement and enthusiasm; and He is calling us to recover the thrill of that steep, graceful-yet-chaotic arc that pulls us toward Heaven.

This weekend is Pentecost Sunday. Before heading to Mass, take a look at the readings, at least the first one (Acts 2:1-11). Imagine that you’re just some person traveling to meet with colleagues on a bright, sunny day. All of a sudden, a brilliant gleam catches your eye, but by the time you look in the direction of the flash, it’s gone. “Was that a bird? Lightning?” you begin to ask. Then, the wind gusts like a tornado has dropped from the sky; and emerging from a single doorway, you see 11 men whose heads appear to be on fire; yet they are not being burned. They are shouting a magnificent message of God’s love, not just for everyone, but for each person. You begin to realize that surrounding you are people of a variety of ethnicities, each speaking a different language; but everyone hears the same thing. Something spectacular is occurring, and you are part of it. God has become man, and He sent the Holy Spirit, like the Phoenix blazing in the sky, so that you would accept salvation. Can you imagine the exhilaration? How do you think you might react? It is inconceivable to believe that any of us would just go about our day without recognizing the amazing event we had just witnessed.

As Mass begins this Sunday, sense that enthralling ascent that lifts us toward God. Deep within, let’s look for that brilliant flash of the Holy Spirit infusing us with God’s presence and love. That is Pentecost: How isn’t that exciting?