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Filled to the Brim – Pentecost


“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.”

As I prayed over this weekend’s Scriptures for Pentecost, a word kept jumping off the page over and over — “Fill.”

A noise like a strong driving wind… filled the entire house.

They were filled with the Holy Sprit.

It seems that whenever and wherever the Holy Spirit is at work, there is “fullness!” — People and places are “filled” with His Presence, and everything begins to change!

Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, stands up to boldly preach the Gospel.

Mary’s cousin Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit when she cries out “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!”

Jesus is “full of the Holy Spirit” before entering the desert for 40 days.

There’s also that beautifully ancient prayer that may sound familiar to you: “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love!”

From all this, we are able to say with confidence: 

The Holy Spirit wants to absolutely fill us up to the brim.

And while it’s true that we are each at very different stages in our journey of faith, one thing is absolutely certain: 

The Holy Spirit is not content with half-full. 

He desires to fill up every crack, every crevice, ever nook and cranny of our heart — So that we may be filled with the very fullness of God Himself!

But sometimes, I think we’d kind of prefer to just be half-full.

What if the apostles had resisted being filled to the brim with the Spirit on Pentecost morning? Imagine! I mean, tongues of fire flying above our heads? Come on God, we can probably do without the pyrotechnics… Let’s tap the breaks and settle down a little bit! This is too much, too fast. The Spirit doesn’t want us to get martyred does He???… He doesn’t want us to say anything offensive, anything that would get us in trouble!

But maybe you’re here today thinking: No, I don’t want to just be half-full! I want to be filled! I want to be ON FIRE!

How do we do that?

Well, the short answer is: We don’t. God does. Of ourselves… we are empty. The Holy Spirit is breath, and on our own steam, we are… breathless! Are we willing to admit that we cannot fill ourselves by our own efforts? — That we cannot “save ourselves” through our projects, our assets, our accomplishments?

Our hearts were created in the image of the Infinite God — why are we so surprised, then, when the finite things of this life do not fill us up?

My brothers and sisters: Only the Holy Spirit can fill us to the brim! 

On our end, all we can really do is become empty so that God can come fill us.

It’s like what Jesus says, “Whoever would lose his life will save it!” To put it differently: Whoever empties themself, lets go of EVERYTHING, and becomes poor in spirit will make room for the coming of God’s Spirit.

That’s basically what the apostles were doing right? They were waiting in an empty, upper room. Waiting for the COMING of the Spirit! They did not provoke the Spirit’s coming. They didn’t really do anything. But when the time came, they were open and ready to welcome Him — They allowed Him to fill every inch of their entire lives. The apostles certainly did not settle for half-full.

Does this shock you? If so, then good! Because this is the heavy stuff of eternity. God means to dwell within us — not in an invasive or overpowering way… but according to our free cooperation with His grace in us and through us! He wants to be allowed in. He prompts and proposes entry. Will you open up the door of your entire heart to Him?

Perhaps we see this in action most brilliantly at the Annunciation — The Angel of the Lord declares unto Mary that she will conceive by the Holy Spirit! The Power of the Most High will overshadow her, the angel explains, and afterward she will be filled with the Son of God himself! After the angel’s proposal, there’s a tense moment of waiting… will Mary say yes? Will she let the Spirit enter her life?

By her “YES,” Mary is FILLED with the Holy Spirit… and consequently FILLED with Christ!

The same invitation is open to us today! We open ourselves up to be filled with the Spirit so that we may be filled with Christ.

Listen again to the Lord’s words to us in the Gospel with all this background in mind: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

We are being sent out — filled with the very power of the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity! Who can stand against us? Whom shall we fear? We are to be Christ’s presence in the world — Other Christs! We are children of God, as Paul puts it, crying out “Abba, Father!” As baptized Christians, this is our truest, most unshakeable identity: We are Sons and Daughters of the one true God, sent to love as Jesus first loved us.

Fellow Christians, we are called to go set the world ablaze! Ablaze not with our own ideas or projects — but with the very Life of God burning inside us!

As we draw near to the Eucharist today, where we are filled with the Real Presence of Jesus, let us pray for the Holy Spirit to fall down upon us once more — That we may be filled to the brim with His life and love!

“Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love! Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.”

By Fr. Anthony Ferguson

Fr. Anthony Ferguson is a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond. He is currently assigned at St. Andrew's Catholic Church in Roanoke, VA.

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