23 May 2010
1 Cor 12.3-7, 12-13
When I was working in Nigeria, outside one of the big stores were a number of beggars. One of them had been there a long time and was well known to the customers. Then one day he did not appear in his usual place, nor for the following two days. The other beggars thought he may have been sick and went to visit him. Sadly, he was dead when they reached his place, a small shack made of corrugated sheets and cardboard. It was far from comfortable. After his burial they went to clean the place and were amazed to find a great amount of money hidden in an old sack. Instead of using it to have a better life he just hoarded the money and failed to enjoy it. He had left his treasure unused.
At times I wonder if we Christians are not like that. We have a great treasure, the Holy Spirit and yet do we use and live out of the power of this Spirit or is He the forgotten Person of the Holy Trinity? How often do you and I call on the Spirit in our daily lives? He is the life-giving Spirit of God. Yet where do you and I go for life? The Spirit is the life-giver as well as the giver of peace and joy.
We could call today the Feast of the Holy Spirit.
The death of Jesus, his execution on the cross, produced terror and fear in those who had followed him. All the gospels speak of the fear that these events caused. The gospels tell us that the opposite of faith is fear. Having faith means trusting. So instead of announcing the message of Jesus, the disciples had gone into a house and locked the doors because of fear. They were closed in on themselves. You can imagine their amazement and delight when Jesus comes and empowers them to leave their locked room, the room of their fears and go forth into freedom with the encouragement, the power, the peace and joy the Spirit gives to preach the Good News to others. This is their mission. It is the mission of the Christian Church. Are we bringers of peace, joy and encouragement to others, starting with those around us?
In the Acts of the Apostles we read that on the day of Pentecost, (The word ‘Pentecost’ means 50 – 50 days after Easter) the disciples were gathered in one room and suddenly the noise of what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven filled the entire house. Then something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire which came to rest on each of them and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. So Pentecost is the celebration of the gift of fire being given to the Church so that she will be empowered to live the life of the Gospel and proclaim it to the ends of the earth.
We are told by St. Paul that the coming of the Holy Spirit is accompanied by a variety of gifts to animate the life of the Church to go forth on its mission.
Without Pentecost the Church would be left in the position of knowing what it should do but powerless to carry out its mission. Pentecost makes the Christian life possible in the midst of a world that in many places does not know God. Pentecost is like a birthday celebration in which each of us according to our needs receives some of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Let us then open our hearts to these gifts, the power of the Holy Spirit, which are free. Like the beggar in the story we Christians have a great treasure too that is available to us, the Holy Spirit who wishes to lavish us with many gifts but often we choose not to exercise them. It seems that many of us are not aware of these gifts or maybe we expect too little from God.
Let us then make 2010 different from the ones that have gone before and do our best to embrace the gifts God gives us and use them on a regular basis in our personal lives and in our families and communities. Let us ask the Spirit to reveal to us the gifts that are given to us according to our calling. Let us use the gifts of the Spirit we received at Baptism and Confirmation.
Also, in the Acts of the Apostles, the Holy Spirit inspires the disciples to find suitable language for the proclamation of the Good News. The text provides us with an important detail which contradicts a superficial, though frequent interpretation. It is not a matter of using only one language but rather of being able to understand one another. All those present from the different nationalities understood in their own language the message of the disciples, empowered by the Spirit. Cultural differences did not prevent the message of Jesus being understood by all. His message was a cause of unity, not disunity. Today we see how the use of the vernacular in the liturgy has been such a gift. Sadly, we all know that people who speak the same language can be bitterly divided because of ethnic differences or prejudices. The Spirit comes to unite and bring peoples together.
“Come O Holy Spirit and fill my heart with the fire of your love. May I use your gifts to make Christ present in the world. Help me to see Christ in others, particularly the poor and needy. And recognizing you in them, may I reach out to help you in your need.”
Fr. Jim Kirstein SMA