19 May 2013 – Pentecost Sunday
1 Cor 12:3-7, 12-13
Some years ago I met a doctor friend of mine. He told me he had received a phone call from the Social Services in a part of England where his brother had worked as a lawyer. The message to the doctor was simple. Come immediately because your brother has no money, he is living in very poor conditions and has no one to take care of him. We have done our best but he is your responsibility. Even though he hadn’t heard from his brother for years the doctor went and was appalled to find the terrible conditions in which his brother was living. He decided to take him home to Ireland. Before leaving he started to gather the few belongings of his brother. He was amazed to find stuffed in an old dirty bag, a great amount of money, more than 300,000 Euro. This man who lived like an animal could have had a very comfortable, enjoyable life if he had used the money he had accumulated over the years. But he did not and suffered greatly as a result.
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? 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 giver of peace and joy. Where do you and I seek for these? 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 same gospels, especially that of John, 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 behind them and go forth into freedom with the encouragement, the power, peace and joy the Spirit gives. The presence of the Spirit in the Church, in each one of us, must lead us to defend the dignity of God’s children wherever their rights to life and truth are being violated. Becoming paralysed with fear of the powerful or of losing our comfort and privileges in society means that we refuse to receive the Spirit of love and instead allow the spirit of fear and terror to dominate us like the disciples were when locked behind the closed doors. Do we pray for an ever-greater trust in the Holy Spirit?
There is a priest who works with us and many people visit him. Why? Because he has the great gift of restoring confidence in people. He is so positive that no matter what people have done, no matter how discouraged or downhearted they are, they seem to be able to go away from him greatly encouraged and empowered to face their difficulties without feeling overwhelmed by them. It is as if a certain power emanates or goes forth from him, just like the fearful disciples of Jesus in today’s gospel account whose fear was replaced by trust. Not only does Jesus replace their fear and terror with peace and joy but also he empowers them to go forth and do likewise for others. This is their mission. It is the mission of the Christian Church. Is this what we have experienced from our Church. Have we experienced freedom, peace, joy and encouragement or more fear and guilt? If so, what spirit is guiding the church in the area where we live? We might want to call more often on the Holy Spirit to empower us to go forth on the mission Jesus sends us on with his life-giving, encouraging attitudes.
In the reading from 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 impede the message of Jesus being understood by all. The message of Jesus was a cause of unity, not disunity. 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.
Thus evangelisation does not mean a superimposed uniformity but rather fidelity to the message and to understanding in diversity. That is, the Church is a communion of peoples from different cultures and languages in which every member has a function. So writes St.Paul in the second reading today from First Corinthians. All members count and must, therefore, be respected in their own charisms and talents.
“Lord Jesus, you went to the disciples showing them your wounds. Are you not telling each of us that despite our wounds, our failings, our weaknesses, that you wish to send us forth too as your disciples, to be givers of peace and joy to others. Just you yourself replaced fear and terror in the disciples with trust and encouragement, you ask us to do the same for others. In order to be better able to do this, you ask us to rely as fully as possible on the power and the life-giving energy of the Spirit. Empower us to do this more and more. Amen”
Fr. Jim Kirstein SMA