Pentecost Sunday (May 20, 2018)
John and Luke have two very different time-lines for the event: Pentecost. In john’s version, the event takes place in the evening of Easter, the same day as the resurrection. Luke, in his acts of the apostles, tells us that the Holy Spirit came fifty days after the feast of the Passover that had been celebrated on Holy Thursday. Pentecost was a Jewish feast of thanksgiving to god for both the wheat harvest and the giving of the law on mount Sinai. Two different scenarios. Conflict? Dissension?
I remember a scholarly convert who became a catholic after reading such contradictions in scripture. He said that differences in reporting gave credibility to scripture. In real life, eyewitnesses contradict each other; if the reports in scripture all agreed, he would have thought there was collusion and he could not have believed. He would not have converted.
Red is the color of excitement - from red convertibles and red roses & valentines to red fire apparatus and even vestments. It is no wonder the scriptures favor fire for the presence of God. God appears to Moses in a burning bush; he leads the people as a cloud by day and a fire by night. God is described as a consuming fire that will destroy the enemies of the children of Israel. Jesus uses the dramatic image when he says, “I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish the blaze were ignited.”
We read in the acts of the apostles: “Suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the spirit enabled them to proclaim.” Jesus’ wish was fulfilled! The blasé was ignited.
All who received the spirit worshiped together, shared their possessions with others according to their need.
The spirit lavished the presence and love of god on everyone present on Pentecost. Like champagne poured on the heads of all in a locker room after a championship, the spirit poured freely on all. The hero of the day gets swamped with champagne and hugs and high fives; but, so do the coach and the ones who sat on the bench, and the ones on injured reserve and the trainers. When there is great joy, no one cares who gets in on the celebration.
The disciples had been huddled in terror in the upper room; they now charge out as fiery preachers courageously proclaiming the risen Lord. Not only their words but also their very lives became proclamation. The time of shock and awe is over. The age of the spirit is inaugurated as they preach, teach, heal, forgive enemies, and love all.
Jesus sets fire to the world by sending his spirit. The spirit comes to make a tired world into a new creation. The spirit fires up the disciples to continue the work that Jesus began. Without that fire, we are “the bland leading the bland.” Going nowhere.
Our bishops, have made the first of two targets for evangelization the already baptized. Why? Because many have lost the fire of enthusiasm - have become “cool” become lukewarm. The second target of evangelization is our neighbor, the one Jesus talks about in the Gospel.
The Holy Spirit reminds us - as Jesus said she would. The Spirit helps us bring back the vision of a personal relationship with Jesus, the relationship that the early Christians had - with fire in their hearts and love in their eyes
What was most basic to the presence of the Holy Spirit? Paul, in Galatians says that the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. In 1 Corinthians, he speaks of other gifts: wisdom, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment of spirits, tongues and their interpretation. He emphasizes that all of the above are not for individual gratification, but for the common good, the community good, which is the common denominator of the gifts of the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is the living spirit of Jesus. All of the above gifts have in common the living of Jesus and the common good of all. The Holy Spirit is called the advocate, the consoler. The emerging sense of the Spirit is the strengthener. She acts as a spiritual blood transfusion for each of us and all of us together.
Angelo Roncalli, Pope John XXIII, convoked the ecumenical council, Vatican II, in 1958 to be nothing less than “a new Pentecost,” which he prophetically believed that the church needed. How can we continue to be sources of that spirit of Pentecost today?