Years ago, the intention of one of my weekday Masses was for a special needs adult who had died. What I experienced after Mass taught me about the working of the Holy Spirit.
After I reached the Gathering Space I was introduced to Randy, the father. Randy had not been baptized. As if from nowhere a parishioner, Betty Malsom, walked up to Randy, sat him down on a chair, sat next to him, and told him that he needed to become Catholic. As was evident, Betty was not afraid to share her faith. Instead of being insulted, Randy listened quietly. The next thing I knew Randy had joined the parish’s RCIA process. After being baptized, Randy’s life changed. He became involved not only in church ministry but also in finding ways to help others outside of the parish. His reception of the Holy Spirit in his Baptism and Confirmation continues to be lived out in his life.
PENTECOST IN ACTS
Today we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost. The Jewish Feast of Pentecost was a Feast of thanksgiving for the annual harvest and for the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai. It was a pilgrimage feast and so there were Jews in Jerusalem from many nations.
The disciples are waiting expectantly for power from on high to come down upon them. In the reading the power of the Holy Spirit comes down upon them. The disciples are transformed and are able to go out and boldly witness the Good News of Jesus and to invite the crowds in Jerusalem to follow the risen Christ. The power of the Holy Spirit is shown in that 14 years later the church moves across the Mediterranean world to the capital city of Rome. The message of Christ is moving to the ends of the earth.
What happened at Pentecost is the opposite of the division of the people and their languages at the Towel of Babel in Genesis. Prior to the building of the Tower everyone spoke the same language. Since the people were building this temple out of pride, they were alienating themselves from God. In response God “confused the speech of all the world and “scattered them all over the earth.” Pentecost reversed this situation. When the Spirit came down on the apostles, they were able to speak in new tongues and the Jews who had gathered from various nations were able to understand the apostles in their native tongues. The Holy Spirit was uniting what had been divided through sin.
Letter to the Corinthians
Our understanding of the working of the Holy Spirit is often shaped by the letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians. Paul writes that the manifestation of the spirit is given for some benefit. The unlimited number of gifts that are given by the Holy Spirit are given for the upbuilding of the church. Paul lists gifts of administration, assistance to one’s neighbor, as well as healing and communicating God’s truth. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to upbuild and unify the church. How do we use gifts that the Holy Spirit has given us for the upbuilding of this Church community?
Gospel of John
Today’s Gospel provides a second account of the sending of the Holy Spirit. In the Gospel the disciples are huddled together in fear behind locked doors. They are afraid they will be subject to hatred, insult and death as a result of following Jesus. The fragile disciples have abandoned Jesus but Jesus has not abandoned them.
The Risen Christ enters the room and breathes on his disciples saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” He revivifies them in a way that recalls the Creator giving life to Adam at the beginning of creation. The Risen Christ empowers the disciples with the Spirit in order that they might continue his mission in the world. They are to be for the world what Christ has been for the world.
These fragile disciples need this transformation by the Holy Spirit. If they are to live out their mission, they need the power of the Holy Spirit. In our brokenness the Holy Spirit transforms us so in a similar way we can live out God’s mission for us.
PURPOSE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Today’s first reading and Gospel portray the Holy Spirit transforming fearful and fragile disciples into bold witnesses of Jesus Christ. Just as they are sent forth and renew the face of the earth so we are called to transform the world. We live in a world which is in great need of the love and joy provided by faith and church community. This is especially true in this time of pandemic. May we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit so we will be transformed in order to transform our society from within.