Pentecost

This Sunday, we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost. As we conclude our fifty days of Easter rejoicing, we acknowledge Jesus’s parting gift to us: the gift of the Holy Spirit and the power of this Spirit in the church. This is not a soft-serve message. This is a challenge. The readings remind us that the Spirit is meant to inspire us to solidarity with each other, the whole world and all its people. At its very core, the Holy Spirit is transformative. It seeks to change behavior and commissions us to reach beyond ourselves and our own narrow thinking. The Spirit calls us into action.

The coming of the Spirit transformed the Christian community in its earliest days. It ought to be transforming us still. Locked doors must be opened. Fear must be replaced by courage. Peace must be a priority. Because of the Pentecost, the power to forgive sins is present, so that we may continue to walk in the grace of Jesus Christ.

The Pentecost challenges us to discover and rediscover our gifts in terms of how they are used for the good of everyone, particularly the poor and disadvantaged. First, we must discover our gifts. Let us ask ourselves what those strengths and skills are. What do you do well? What do you enjoy doing most? And when you list your strengths, is your faith in Jesus Christ and your identity as the baptized daughter or son of God one of them? Secondly, once our gifts are identified, we must rediscover them in the context of Who has given them to us, and for what purpose they have been given. How, today and every day, have you used your gifts to care for the poor, the marginalized and the weak? How have you used your gifts to reach out to those who need to hear the message of Christ’s Good News?

This is no easy commission. It is made ever more difficult, because the culture of our times encourages us, even defines us, according to our accumulation of things like power, control and tax bracket. Who we are is in danger of becoming what we have, instead of who we belong to. We belong to Jesus Christ, who by the power of the very same Holy Spirit we read about today, was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became one of us.

The Holy Spirit pursues unity. We have become very good at isolating ourselves from anyone who isn’t like us, whether it’s because they don’t look like us, or speak the same language or worship the same tradition. Now we even divide ourselves according to how we think. Our news sources, our Facebook feeds and even the parishes we belong to are increasingly defined and subsequently chosen according to labels like “conservative” and “liberal.” We increasingly pad our lives with only those that affirm our own opinions and life choices. In a homily in January of 2015, Pope Francis said, “To plumb the depths of the mystery of God, we need one another, we need to encounter one another and to challenge one another under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who harmonizes diversities, overcomes conflicts, reconciles differences.”

The commission of the Spirit at Pentecost needs to be made real in our daily lives. In a world of anger, doubt, fear and division, the Spirit must inspire us to tear down the barriers between us and to speak out especially about issues of justice and peace. In a world of selfishness, competition and control, the Spirit gives out gifts that must be shared for the benefit of every person, especially those who are poor or in need. In a world with war, violence and terrorism, the Spirit demands that we proclaim a message of peace and reconciliation. While the world preaches economic systems based on scarcity, the Spirit reminds us that if the things of the world are shared by all, there is plenty. In a world where the environment is abused and over-used, the Spirit calls us to evaluate how we live and to use the earth with care and love, rather than waste.

I know, just as you all do, that it’s not easy to defend our faith and the importance of it in our lives. It’s difficult to stand your ground when the waves of popular opinion wash over us. Those who don’t recognize that they are beloved by God and that Eternal Life has been purchased for them by the blood of Jesus can be downright hostile in response to us at times. This only makes Jesus’s parting gift to us more important and more valuable. It resides within us, giving us strength and making possible what we would never be able to accomplish on our own. May the power of the Holy Spirit burn within you, today and always.

Lisa Amos

Pastoral Associate

 

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