Pentecost (8th Sunday in Easter) – June 5, 2022
A patient looked a little worried when the doctor came in to administer his annual physical exam. So, the first thing the doctor did was to ask him whether anything was troubling him. “Well, to tell the truth, doctor, yes!” answered the patient.
“You see, I seem to be getting more forgetful of things. I’ve been forgetting where I parked my car, whether I locked the doors of my house, and whether or not I’ve paid my hydro bill. So I really need your help, Doctor. What can I do?”
The doctor replied, “Well, for starters, you can pay me in advance!”
Like that doctor who answered honestly to his patient, that’s what the Spirit of God does for us as well! The Spirit brings us into contact with the truth about ourselves, our world and our relationship to all living things. One of those truths recorded in today’s Gospel is that we’re made Sons and Daughter of God, “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Rom 8:17b) to the Kingdom of God! Being made a part of God’s family is the flower that we celebrate today! It’s something to celebrate because it has implications on how we live henceforth on this earth. No longer unsure of Gods’ love for us, no longer in doubt of God’s forgiveness for our sins, no longer wondering about our relationship to fellow believers, today’s flower is a bold reminder that our eternal life has already begun and that sin has been definitively defeated!
We began that new life when we were baptized! Indeed, at our Easter Vigil this year, we celebrated the budding life of faith of one of our adult candidates, and the continuing life of faith of those already baptized. We symbolized that faith by the lighting of our Paschal candle. These past seven weeks have been an opportunity for all of us to celebrate the effects our own baptism has had on our lives, and to recommit ourselves to that baptismal consecration by expressing the risen life of faith more boldly and confidently.
For it was at our baptism that the Spirit came with power from on high and configured us more closely to Christ.
If we were infants at our baptism, the Spirit’s growth in our lives and our adherence to the Gospel of Christ was aided by the example and prayers of our parents, godparents, and the Christian community. But that wasn’t the end of it. When we celebrated the sacrament of confirmation, we were sealed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, an event recounted in today’s first reading, when the Spirit of God came down upon the apostles and Mary in the form of tongues of fire and a whirling wind and bestowed upon them all, noticeable signs that they were different than before.
In the Acts of the Apostles, we hear that their fear vanished! Their courage grew; they spoke in tongues, and all who heard them were able to hear and understand them in their own language! The Spirit empowered them to leave their hiding places and to go out into the world, to unknown people and unknown lands, to different cultures and varying religious traditions, to put their own lives at risk, being only led by the Holy Spirit, and to do so with joy in their hearts knowing that they belonged to God!
Mark my words: the Spirit isn’t some passive force. The Spirit of God is a disruptive, driving, divine force in our lives and in our world! I’m sure that’s why the Spirit came down as tongues of fire and a whirling wind on that first Pentecost. When I was pastor at other churches, I’ve had the children for confirmation run around the hall in a circle to create a whirlwind and all the plastic cups and plates that we have scattered around them are blown away by the sheer force of their combined action! Then we have them jump up in the air and to take the form of a tongue of fire, to give them a taste of what it must be like to be the Holy Spirit, living, acting and breathing inside of us!
The Spirit of God is always about significant transformation, movement beyond the boundaries placed by human beings, taking risks that may have significant, unforeseen repercussions, and placing our complete and utter trust in God’s plan for our lives, even if we might not know what that plan may be, all the time.
It follows from this, that when we fight against such transformation, movement, risk-taking, and trust placing, we’re quenching the fire of the Spirit within us, negating the full expression of our baptismal consecration, and not allowing ourselves to participate in God’s mission of making God’s kingdom come! Usually, such resistance is due to an unwillingness, on our part, to surrender complete control and authority over to God in every aspect of our lives. Sometimes, this is due to unconfessed sin or sinful habits that have led us away from the grace of God. Such a resistance to the Spirit may also mean that we haven’t allowed ourselves to come into close contact with the life-giving Spirit of God. We’re comfortable going to Jesus but may not be so comfortable approaching the Holy Spirit. Perhaps such resistance also means that we haven’t been wholly convinced that we’re heirs with Christ to the Kingdom of God. Maybe we think God’s promises are conditional and so, haven’t fully allowed ourselves to be led by the Son of God through the Spirit to the Father. On this solemnity of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit wants to change all that. The Spirit of God wants to challenge, each and every one of us, to let the Spirit into our lives, to course through our veins, to fire us up with zeal, love and longing for the Lord, and to bring God’s kingdom a little bit closer for someone who has doubted God’s love and care for them.
The opposite of resistance is openness. Our openness and receptivity to the Spirit can be measured by the amount of time we spend in daily prayer and meditation of God’s Word.
Recall that Jesus instructed his disciples to go to Jerusalem and to pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Such prayer doesn’t have to be scripted. It doesn’t have to be any form of official prayer either.
The best prayers we can offer, are sometimes, those that come from the heart, that pour forth the struggles and temptations, the difficulties and the hesitations we may have of being followers of Christ and then, asking God to help us with those obstacles.
Consider that without prayer, Pentecost would never have happened in the dramatic way that the scriptures portrayed it. Like everything else in life, we get what we put into something. If we’re superficial in our praying, its effects in our lives will also be superficial and not long lasting. If we come to church not wanting to be changed or made new, we will leave the same old tired person who entered. But if we pray from the core of our being, and seek to lay bare to the Lord our whole selves, if we sing from our hearts and allow our lungs to be filled with the breath of God, if we open ourselves to our brothers and sisters gathered around us for support and see them as fellow heirs to the Kingdom, then the Holy Spirit can work through us, in unimaginable and exciting ways and forever change us from that moment on! If we, honestly and with an open heart, mind, and soul listen to the quiet whispers, promptings, and sudden inspirations that bubble up inside us from the Holy Spirit, we can experience a Pentecost much like the disciples and evidence the Holy Spirit in powerful words and deeds when we leave this holy place.
For each of us, the way the Holy Spirit is expressed will vary. In the Acts of the Apostles we heard, “All of the them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.” (Acts 2: 4) What abilities will the Holy Spirit give to you? What abilities will the Holy Spirit give to me? We’ll only know if we allow the Holy Spirit to prayerfully lead us to discern where we may be needed, to whom we are being sent, and what course of action we’re being invited to take, regardless of the personal sacrifice to our comfort or social acceptability. For when we let the Holy Spirit do what the Spirit does best, God will renew the face of the earth and we will never be the same!
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