SORRY ALL, I HAVE BIG TROUBLE TRYING TO PASTE PICS IN THIS WEEK!
A philosopher named Jean-Paul Sartre wanted to explore the agony of people who feel stuck and trapped in their lives. He saw this as being hell on earth. So he wrote a play about this kind of hell and called it No Exit. Three people arrive in ‘hell’, which consists of a living room with mirrors round its walls. There is no exit in the room, and there is no interval or intermission in the play. The three characters stay on the stage the whole time, since they can never leave the room and must stay together getting on one another’s nerves. While they keep talking about the past, nothing they do now can change it. As they remain locked in the room, the final line spoken is ‘Let’s go’. But they can’t go anywhere, because they cannot change anything in either the past or the present. The mirrors keep reminding them how trapped they are. It’s sheer hell for them, but that’s the way it is.
It’s one thing to be locked in a room with no exit. It’s another thing to lock yourself in a room because you believe that the world outside your door is hostile, and that if you leave your room you will be killed. This is the plight of the apostles, the first followers of Jesus, in our First Reading today. After his crucifixion, they have retreated to a room and locked themselves in. So scared are they of those that killed Jesus and may come looking for them, that there is no exit, no way out. It’s their kind of hell.
But there is an exit after all. The risen Jesus comes and stands among them and says to them: ‘Peace be with you. As the Father sent me [out], so am I sending you.’ Next he breathes the Holy Spirit on them. When they breathe in the Spirit, they breathe in the Spirit’s gifts of courage, confidence, and conviction. The Spirit changes their darkness into light, their sadness into joy, and their fear into freedom. The Spirit sheds fresh meaning on their past and offers them fresh hope for their future. The Spirit, in fact, is their exit from their feelings of frustration and hopelessness, and their entrance into a brand new life of generous and loving service.
So, gifted with the Spirit, they walk out bravely into the streets outside where they encounter hordes of people – Parthians, Medes and Elamites, visitors from Rome, Crete and Arabia, etc., etc. – all waiting to hear what the Apostles have to say. So, filled with the Holy Spirit of wisdom, understanding, courage, confidence and love, they start telling all and sundry the good news of Jesus, and every person there hears in their own language the marvellous things that God has been doing through him.
Here in our gathering today that same powerful Pentecost Spirit of God is in our midst. Just about every person here is a baptised Christian, a follower of Jesus. But none of us in this space is exactly the same as any other person. Thank God for that! Hell is where everybody is the same and in the same boat. No! There is a variety of people here, and the Holy Spirit has distributed a variety of gifts among us. And that same Spirit of God, as St Paul insists in our Second Reading, is ‘working in all sorts of different ways in different people’. Our task is first of all, then, to identify, recognise and respect, just what gifts the Holy Spirit has given us, and just what gifts the Holy Spirit has given to the other people in our lives.
What are your outstanding gifts and what are theirs? Is it a loving, joyful, and peaceful heart? Is it patience, kindness, friendliness, or generosity? Is it a willingness to forgive the hurt and harm someone has done us? Is it letting go of the past and moving on? Is it loyalty? Is it fidelity? Is it perseverance? Is it an ability to organise? Is it an ability to teach? Is it skill in reading, writing, or speaking? Is it expertise with figures, statistics, and accounts? Is it shopping for the family? Is it cooking? Is it catering? Is it sewing, cleaning, or gardening? Is it simply answering the phone or the doorbell particularly politely? Is it skills in sport, drawing, painting, music, singing, dancing, photography? Is it telling jokes and making others laugh? Is it welcoming strangers and making them feel at home? Is it making friends? Is it seeing and acknowledging the good in others, looking at the bright side of life, comforting the sorrowful, or starting helpful conversations? Is it visiting poor, sick, or lonely people? Is it giving food, money, or other material assistance to needy people here or overseas? Is it being ready to drive a neighbour to the station or the hospital, or take a ‘shut-in’ person to church or an outing?
The great thing about the special gifts that the Holy Spirit of God has given to you, to me, and to all others in our lives, is that they have not been given to us for our own satisfaction, enjoyment, and fulfilment. They have been given for the benefit, service, enrichment and joy of others. So our second task today is to re-dedicate and re-commit ourselves to serving others with whatever gifts have been given to us.
Therefore, before we say today ‘Let’s go’, let us also give thanks to God for the huge variety of gifts that the Holy Spirit has given to us personally and individually, and to all the other people in our lives. In the words of St Paul, may we thank God that ‘there is a variety of gifts but always the same Spirit; there are all sorts of service to be done, but always to the same Lord; working in all sorts of different ways in different people…’!
Only after we have given thanks to God today for all the rich gifts that the Holy Spirit has distributed among us, can we go out and and tell the good news of Jesus, and to keep serving the Lord in every other person in our lives!