Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost: we hear in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, that the Spirit of God, is poured out as ‘gift’ on the Apostles, who had gathered together out of fear, and were then transformed into a group of loving boldness and joy because they were filled with the breath of God. They then became fearless 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. 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 The Lord God, 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 within the ‘ corporate mind’ of our ancestors in faith; they realized that they were truly God’s People! Later on, it was also celebrated as 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 ‘expectant waiting’ into a community of ‘loving out-reach’, and ‘gentle boldness’ in their missionary adventures. The language of Pentecost defies all spoken language…. it is the words of loving action, and identification with, and a belonging to the Living Lord which shaped all their words and actions. The arrival of the Holy Spirit overwhelmingly urged the Apostles and urges 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. The dialect of the committed Christian is easily understood, and its contents is absolutely contagious to its listeners!
Remember Jonah in the Old Testament? Remember that he was sent to the Gentile city of Nineveh to preach repentance….meaning a change of heart; in other words, turning their world upside down as a response to the Prophet’s entreaty. The same applied to the Apostles at Pentecost. However, let’s take hold of Jonah’s name…in Hebrew it is a derivative from the word DOVE! In short, the very countenance of Jonah, filled with, and impelled by the Lord’s spirit, was in fact a LIVING, WALKING WORD OF GOD! He in fact was the epitome of the Lord’s SHALOM! Hence, the recipients of this gentle-strong clarion call, responded positively, in a life changing way! Look what happened to the Apostles and Mary of that Pentecost Day!
This Solemnity is a strong reminder to all of us of the SPIRIT’S GIFTS which we have been freely 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. The Spirit’s Gifts, like anything that lives and breathes, need careful maintenance and nourishment.
Take the example of looking after our Gardens…back and front! It’s all very well to plant trees and shrubs and annuals, but in order for them to grow and blossom, they needs constant care from people who know how they develop, and what nutrients and positions are best for them. Gardeners need to have a watchful eye on sickness that can slowly come over a plant, and what treatment they need to recover. Using that as an example, we have the personal and community stewardship to maintain and nourish these gifts of the Holy Spirit…..because they are for others; not just for me! Well, how do we review these Gifts, and give an appraisal of their performance? Let’s get down to some practical guidelines.
Firstly, we have to realise that we have the gifts in the first place, next we have to want to do this activity…..no half-heartedness; it’s going to be hard work; just like gardening! We need to set some time for ourselves…..and that ‘quiet time’ needs to be respected by our household. Turn phones and Tablets etc. onto Aeroplane mode! Any buzz, vibration, ding dong or Cathedral bells will upset this activity. So, if you have given yourself 10 Minutes for this project, just do 3 or 4 of the gifts, there is no prize for getting through the Seven Gifts in one sitting. When we are settled down, maybe with the assistance of a nice……..Coke, ha ha; have the Seven Gifts written down on your Tablet or iPad….
WISDOM! Ask yourself, what is Biblical Wisdom? Have I seen this Gift in other people? Pray in thanksgiving to God for seeing that in the person that you have just remembered. Do I recognise this gift in myself? If not, why not? If yes, when? Pause for a few moments…..don’t let yourself get distracted by the Dog or Cat that has just come into the room to see what you are doing. When I do this exercise I have to be away from my pet Galah (Australian Parrot) if he sees me sitting down…he will say at that top of his voice, “I love you Kev, does the Bishop know? That’s the big questions!” Finally, pray to the Lord for an increase of awareness of this precious Gift, and to recognise the triggers in my relationship life to use it and thank God for it……Time is up now! Look that was 10 minutes just to do one Gift! Now, we have the other six gifts to do…..so make in your Outlook Express, the next appointment with the Lord, when you will be held in conversation – prayer. Well, thats our Homework for all of us, every week till we are carried to the Lord through death!
Now, let’s look at the world in which we live: 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.
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. Then this Reflection on ‘Fire’…could be good Food for Thought….I don’t know where I found this reflection….but I think that it is pretty good, see what you think?
A REFLECTION ON FIRE:
from the beginning of time
gives new energy
to our Universe.
That same fire kindled from tiny sparks
warm and welcoming,
beckons us home
calls us in from the cold.
In fire, burning mysteriously
within a bush,
God called Moses
to lead his people forth to freedom.
A pillar of fire led those same people
through the wilderness of their wandering
to occupy a new and fruitful land.
It was fire
that Jesus promised
to cast upon the earth
and wished that it were blazing already.
On the day of Pentecost,
appeared as living flame
touching the faith, inspiring courage
in those who first believed.
Today this same Pentecost flame
has still the power
to reach those
struggling to believe,
and bring fresh meaning
to their search and their discoveries.
Fire of belief! Fire of action!
Fire of hope! Fire of the Future!