We are preparing to celebrate the great event of Pentecost. This solemnity has a “vigil” and a special liturgy having all kinds of reading-options. It is the celebration of the birth of the Church by the sending to the human family an abiding and guiding Spirit. We celebrate the Birth of Jesus with great anticipating, but the birth of the Church is a little more mysterious. Fleshly birth is more, well, fleshly and structural birth can be interesting, but less touching to the heart.
In our country, the Catholic Church is diminishing in native-born members, but is growing in significance as it labors to speak out to the various voices of our culture. Jesus was born in silence and the Church was born within a noise. Jesus was born hidden from the wise. The Church was born according to the Spirit of Wisdom. Jesus grew according to the natural laws of human growth. The Church grew quickly according to the movements of this animating Spirit of life.
We can prepare for this liturgy by reflecting on our own personal growth in faith and action. Jesus as well as the early Church went from the Hand of God into the hands of God’s human family. We can pray with the experiences of our being the gifts of the Spirit to that same family. We can have our own “vigil” reviewing the many options we have exercised in being a member of His alive and active Body.
There is quite a bit of serious sitting around in the First Reading and Gospel for today’s celebration of Pentecost. We hear of the gathering in Jerusalem for the feast of Weeks or the celebration of the first cuttings of the grain harvest. It was a communal celebration of God’s abundant fidelity to the Jews in the giving of the land and its fertility. They were gathered to give thanks and have a share in the crops.
What we hear from the Acts of the Apostles is the account of the same fidelity of God to bring about a new crop and a new sense of the whole earth’s being a blessing place.
With the coming of the Holy Spirit there was to be no more serious sitting around. There was a kind of interior fire lit which had to be spread. People from various distant regions came, heard and were invited to listen and then return with that fire and that Spirit.
For the Jewish believers Pentecost was a harvest celebration. For the Christian community it is the celebration of God’s planting the Holy Spirit to bring about a harvest of planters. The more difficult aspect of our Pentecost is that there is no more serious sitting around. The Gospel of John presents a different picture of Jesus’ sending the Spirit and the results are the same. Instead of serious sitting, there is an even more serious sending. Paul writes it in our Second Reading more specifically. There is One Spirit which is to be made visible or manifested in different”works” and this Spirit is to produce “all of them in everyone.”
When God came looking for Adam and Eve in the Book of Genesis, they were hiding, because they had denied who they were and lusted to be like God. When Jesus came looking for His disciples who had denied who they were, He found them hiding as well. It is Resurrection time and Jesus greets them with “peace” twice and then does quite two amazing things. He passes on to them the very mission He had received. Then He breathes upon them and offers them the same breath or Spirit that brought about order from the chaos as recounted in the same book of Genesis. He is telling them that as He was sent into the world to bring order into the lives of all, so they were as well, the incarnations of the Spirit who themselves are sent to bring order out of chaos. Whose chaos you order there will be order and those who retain their chaos as a way of living, their chaos is retained.
The visited-disciples were in personal and collective disorder. They had run away from the Light, the Way, the Truth and the Life. Jesus came, not with condemnation, nor to convict them, but convince them that their lives were blest and could be a blessing if they allowed the Spirit to breathe within them and through them.
In the creation narrative of Genesis the creating God Who was breathing a spirit of order, was quoted as saying such things as, “let there be light”, and “let there be life”. Jesus is the incarnation of that same on-going love. He breathes the same Spirit upon the disciples to get up and get out into the light and bring about new life.
We all enjoy a pat on the back and little encouraging words. Jesus is giving His early Church more than a pat, but a boot in the backside. The same Spirit is doing the same kicking to the same area of our Church and our individual selves. No more serious sitting around and worrying or wondering who we are and what are we to do. Jesus did not give them any further instruction except to “Go”. Where shall we go? Where is the chaos. Where do others not want to go? Where are we likely to bring light and life? Where is the darkness and death in our families, communities, and cultures?
This is not exactly a comforting feast. This celebration has serious, going out, implications. The Spirit is not a warm and fuzzy consoler like a fluffy blanket. It says to each of us, “Take your life as seriously as I do!” Hiding is not allowed any more!
“They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke of the great things God had done, Alleluia.” Acts 2, 4
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