Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost: we hear in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles that the Spirit of God, poured out as ‘gift’ on the Apostles, who had gathered together out of fear, were transformed into a group filled with the breath of God, and boundless energy and Joy. They then became fearless, daring and joyful proclaimers of the nearness of God’s Kingdom. Today in God’s Word we hear echoes from the Old Testament Prophet Ezekiel 36:24-28, who hundreds of years before, looked forward to an outpouring of God’s Spirit in a ‘gob smacking’ way! Let us see what the Prophet had to say: ‘I will gather my people from among the nations, and bring you home to your own land. I will pour clean water over you, and cleanse you of all defilement. I will take away your hearts of stone, and give you hearts for love instead. I will put my Spirit in you, and you will keep my laws and sincerely observe my commandments. You will be my people, and I will be your God.’
Christian tradition has called this Feast, the Birth of the Church! However, its Religious origins go back to Old Testament times, when our ancestors in faith celebrated the initiating of the Covenant between Y-HW-H, (Adonai) and His people, through Moses on Mt. Sinai. This Covenant is summed up in the last line from the Prophet Ezekiel: ‘you will be my people, and I will be your God.’ That event marked a ‘special’ stage and advancement in the ‘corporate mind’ of our ancestors in faith, as they realized that they were truly God’s People and they in fact belonged to God. It was around this time each year, that coincided with the Feast of Harvest; what an appropriate time for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the maturing Apostles? At Pentecost, the Apostles and Mary, were transformed from a community gathered out of ‘waiting & questioning’ into a community of loving out-reach, and gentle boldness in their missionary ventures. The language of Pentecost defies all spoken language…. it is the word of loving action, and identification with, and a belonging to the Living Lord, who urged the Apostles and urge us to ‘Go out’ to all nations as living witnesses of our God, who ‘is with us’… at all times, even to the end of the world.
Now let’s look at today’s Gospel under the microscope! In the fourth Gospel, the Johannine community has the coming of the Holy Spirit in the evening of the day of Resurrection. Now, this becomes one of the appearances of the Risen Lord to Mary and the Disciples. For John and his community the evening is really the beginning of a new week, a new creation, the beginning of a new order of things within the economy of Salvation for all. In Scripture, evening time is a special time of stillness and at-oneness with God in prayer and gazing. There are many instances of this in the Old and New Testament. Notice that the doors were closed, hence the room where the disciples could be looked upon as a tomb, a place of waiting for the breath of new life to be infused into the gathered community. Notice that it was FEAR which instigated the gathering into the room of the Disciples. We see that our Risen Lord enters into their fear, and offers them the first Easter gift; PEACE! What kind of PEACE is this? It would seem that it is the PEACE of a new beginning a new creation, but it is a PEACE for all people won through His wounds. The Wounded Risen Lord’s impact at their recognition was a transformation from FEAR to JOY! Once again the Easter Gift from the Risen Lord was imparted again. However, this gift, this transformation which took place within the Disciples carries with it a responsibility of Mission! ‘As the Father sent me, so I am sending you’. This is truly a Mission from God, because it is the I AM, or Y-H-W-H implied in this inspired text confirms that what happened to Jesus at his Baptism in Chapter 1:32 is now happening to the Disciples.
There is still more! Notice that Jesus breathes of his disciples and says, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit…..’ now this cannot be done from a distance; no, it implies a very intimate communion between the Risen Lord and His Disciples. Let’s examine this….Think about the people who have breathed on you during your life. Your parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, lovers. In the evening time of life for our parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters and lovers, we breathe on them. In this instance, it would seem that John and his community see this also as the moment of creative movement within the Disciples. Similar to the creative movement of the breath of God at the beginning of time, over the darkness of the deep as we read in Genesis. As with the work of creation, we were made to be caretakers and stewards of the creative order, here in this Pentecost experience, we see a new kind of stewardship that is of the forgiveness of sin and the Mission to bring Heaven to Earth as we pray in The Lord’s Prayer.
So keeping that all in mind, we are called through Baptism and Confirmed in the Spirit, that we are called and sent out with the embodiment of PEACE…..in other words we are all called Jonah…… As Old Testament Prophet Jonah was called to convert the Nineveites after his experience of Salvation with the three day sojourn in the Belly of the Whale; his inner change manifested in and through peace was the invitation for the people to ‘change’. As Jonah embodied that Peace, he himself was the message…….or rather the conduit for God’s peace to trigger a ‘change of heart’ among the Pagans. A similar Mission goes for us and with us…….the first gift of Easter/Pentecost is that creative inner PEACE which runs deep within the fibre of our being, and is truly a gift from God for others. It is not a Gift to be put in the Pantry of our lives, where the moths will destroy. It is not a gift of timidity, but a gift of loving boldness in the midst of all odds that may seem to be against us.
In this so called post Royal Commission era here in Australia into Institutional Sexual abuse, it seems to me that whilst the findings have set the alarm bells ringing, and ‘change’ in this whole procedure and understanding are most important, it saddens me to hear so many of our Bishops, continuing to be besotted by these findings, and they don’t seem to be able to get out of the rut of depression about it. Our ancestors in faith were in a rut whilst in Egyptian Slavery; Moses had to not only deal with people who easily gave in, but he had to boost the overall morale through his intimacy with the Lord God. I believed that here and now in our world, we have the clouds of shame on every horizon, but the Sun shines on the other side! Our Lord’s Passion, Death, Resurrection and the Holy Spirit, is alive and well, if we are alive and well in the Lord. We MUST be people who are daring for the Lord and not Control Freaks! We must own our past, and rejoice that the New Heavens and the New Earth are not going to just ‘happen’, WE, through and impelled by Christ, must make it happen in true love, absolute engagement with all cultures and religions…….but not out to Baptise everything one of thing that moves! It is not entirely up to us! It is up to us to have a 3D surround-sound vision of our world, and as Jonah walked through Nineveh, we have to walk with each other in the Lord as we walk our streets every days.
So, now let’s have a closer look at the Spirit’s Gifts.
This Solemnity is a strong reminder to all of us of the Gifts of the Spirit that we have been given, and the responsibility that we all have in nourishing and using the Spirit’s Gifts. Wisdom, Understanding, Right Judgment, Courage, Knowledge, Reverence, Awe and Wonder.
We live in a multi-cultural society, and the differences in language and custom can easily reinforce the barriers which are counterproductive in the process of local and national identity. If we are truly spirit-filled people the language barrier is dissolved through listening, acceptance of diversity, and a desire to look for the goodness in each other. If we are intent in pursuing nit picking and negativity in new comers to our country, and in those who have their roots deep within this land, we run the high risk of cramping the creativity of the Holy Spirit. If we are in positions of leadership in the media, we should enable our Television shows and advertisements to be representative of the multi culturalism in our country. How representative are our Parliamentarians of our people? Australians have the grand opportunity to first desire to meet our new brothers and sisters, and it is only from the desire to meet, listen and share do we then have the formula for Reconciliation. It is absolute and total arrogance to dismiss our First Australian indigenous people as pre European civilizations! We who comes from Overseas, and I might add that I am a duel citizen like most Australians, we must get off our High Horse, and sit around the camp fire of storytelling and love with the people who have been wedded to this Land for over 50,000 years. Here we are as Europeans……just here 200 years! Food for thought!
Perhaps the following prayer could be in our hearts and on our lips this day.
‘Holy Sacred Spirit, breathe your breath on us. Holy Sacred Spirit, breathe your life in us’. Words by Monica Brown, Song Album: A REMEMBERING HEART. God Bless you and your families, and may we never forget each other in prayer.