The Holy Spirit’s Gifts are as numerous as the sand on our Beaches.
Acts 2:1-11. 1 Cor 12:3-7, 12-13. John 20:19-23
Sorry All, I have big tech’ problems with posting Pics this week.
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost: the Spirit of God, poured out as ‘gift’ on the Apostles, made them who had gathered together out of fear, into a group filled with the breath of God, and fearless 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 has 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 certainly marked a ‘special’ stage in the ‘mind’ of our ancestors in faith, as they realized that they were truly God’s People. 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 ‘waiting’ 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 words of loving action, and identification with, and a belonging to the Living Lord, who 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.
Now, this year’s understanding of the Gift of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles is taken from the Fourth Gospel. This description of the ‘Spirit filled events’ being showered onto the Apostles, takes place on Easter Sunday Evening! Whereas, St. Luke’s Acts of the Apostles has this ‘mind and Spirit changing event at the time of the 50th Day after the Resurrection. Now, let’s not get caught up on the actual day as being the most important aspect of this outstanding event. Each Gospel Community had their own flavour of telling the Good News about Jesus Christ. In order for us to appreciate this wonderful phenomena, we must get inside the ‘mind’ of the Evangelical Community who wrote their version for their own specific purposes. We must be careful not to fall into the trap of looking and listening to God’s Word in a literal way! If we do that, we would not be within a Bull’s roar of getting the message. The particular Literary Forms that are used in these Biblical Texts, have a specific purpose and convey the message of truth- from the Lord God. While I am on this note; when we study the Scriptures, it is a very useful tool to have The Jerome Biblical Commentary by our side to help us get into the ‘mind set’ of our ancestors in Faith.
Now, let’s look at the Gospel for today in the light of the above. Notice that it begins in the Evening, of the First day of the week. Evening times are very special times in Biblical stories. Evening time is a time of listening, of reflection and encounter with the ‘Divine’. It can well be called a time ‘of prayer’. As I have already said, the Johannine Community depict the giving of the Holy Spirit, along with the ‘Mission’ entrusted to the Disciples by the Risen Lord. Keeping in mind the intention of the Author, this event marks the time of a new creation taking place within their community. Hence the first day of the week, as we read in the Book of Genesis, marked the beginning of God’s cause of Creation. In this situation, it is the Holy Spirit who is the prime cause for a remarkable change within the fearful disciples. Notice that the Risen Lord comes and stands within their fear and trepidation. His first words, were not, ‘Hey, I’m back with you all now’. Now way; Our Lord’s first words were, ‘Peace be with you’….and He was not expecting the response from the Disciples, ‘and with your Spirit’. The ‘PEACE’ that the Lord speaks about, is that pristine Peace that during and after the Creating acts, as we see in the Book of Genesis. The Risen Lord first offers his friends who were gathered out of Fear; the gift of the Peace that comes from God! So, we could say that in this case while reflecting on John’s Gospel, the first Gift of the Spirit, is the Lord God’s Peace…..SHALOM. However, the Risen Lord in turn shows his disciples his wounded hands and his side. In short, the suffering Servant in Isaiah as we heard on Good Friday’s Liturgy of the Passion, is the Risen Lord! Now, through this manifestation of the Crucified and Risen Lord, their fear is immediately dissolved, and they are then filled with Joy! Could we say that Joy is the second Gift of the Holy Spirit? It’s a special kind of joy…..not the kind of joy that we get, when we buy a new car! This joy infiltrates every fiber of our being. I would like to use the analogy of taking a dip into a volcanic heated natural lake……this hot water goes right into one’s bones; nothing like the hot water from an electric hot water system in our house. After being in this natural heated water for about twenty minutes, it is just so hard to stand up and get out of the water, because of the heat’s intensity. Now, keeping that in mind, let’s look at the Joy which comes from God! It is similar to the Hot Spring, His Joy goes right through us, and instead at going limp at the knees, it fills us with loving boldness, and active energy …….we become re-created…..renewed, gifted and Spirit filled. Jesus gives His Disciples another creative word of PEACE………
Now, this is the crunch time; with every gift, comes a responsibility. Jesus commands them to go out entrusted with a similar Mission to His own which was entrusted to him by the Father…..Well, briefly, what was implied by Our Lord’s command to His Disciples…..We could summarize it like this….’Go, and tell My People that I love them, Go, and show my people that I love them, Go and gather together my people, and bring them back to me!’
Now, the part of this Gospel is extremely important for us to understand its implications….The Risen Lord, then ‘breathed on them and said…’ Let’s Pause and carefully reflect on this action of the Risen Jesus. When have you been breathed on by someone else? Our Mum’s breathed on us as little babies, so did our Dad’s. When we are very close to someone, we breathe on them. While our loved ones are dying, like our Parents, siblings and grandparents and close friends, we breathe on them. How beautiful is that life giving action, even on our dying ones? Again, referring back to John’s Gospel, just as the Lord God breathed into the nostrils of humankind, the breath of life in the Creation story……..just as God the Father rebreathed into Jesus, the breath of new life, so Jesus breathed on His Disciples to receive the Holy Spirit’s breath……..Remember that beautiful Hymn that we used to sing years ago…..’O breathe on me, breath of God, Fill me with life a-new; that I may love what thou dost love, and do what thou wouldst do….’ Then Jesus in the Gospel says, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’……and then comes the responsibility….’for those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven etc.’ There is no mention there that Confession will be heard on Saturday afternoon between 4.00 and 5.00 PM……… Surely this command to forgive sin, is for all of us! Food for thought!
The seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit are Wisdom, Understanding, Right Judgment, Courage, Knowledge, Reverence, Awe and Wonder. Probably today is a good time to reflect on these gifts and see what ones we are aware of, and what ones we put into action? If we need to put our spiritual selves in ‘For Service’, like we do with our cars, we might need to spend some time regularly checking out our usage of these gifts. Also, when we see the Gifts alive and well in other people, that could well be an opportunity to give thanks and praise to God for having seen these Spirit filled Gifts ‘at work and alive’.
In the Second Reading from St. Paul today, he makes it clear that there are lots and lots of Gifts from the Spirit and they all work differently in multitudes of ways in different people. These Gifts are free!
Let’s take a quick look St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians 5:22-26. He says, ‘What the Spirit brings is very different: love, joy, peace patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control……You cannot belong to Christ Jesus unless you crucify all self-indulgent passions and desires. Since the Spirit is our life, let us be directed by the Spirit. We must stop being conceited, provocative and envious.’
Now, here we see the overabundance of the Spirit’s Gift, and as we reflect on what St.Paul has just said, it really causes us to PAUSE! However, if we hunger for these gifts and acclaim that Jesus is our Lord, then we are well on the way for discovering Spirit filled Gifts in ourselves that we never thought existed. However, we might just learn about our gifts from other people, too. It would do us well to affirm the Spirit’s gifts in each other.
Perhaps the following prayer could well be in our hearts, and on our lips this day……Pentecost Sunday, 2017. Our world is hungering for the real SHALOM from the Lord God…..it all starts with us!
‘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.
Fr Kevin Walsh – Sydney Australia