Sunday, May 24, 2015

Pentecost--The Spirit is Within

Pentecost – the outpouring of the Spirit upon the disciples -- concludes the Easter season and begins the mission of the Church to continue the work of Jesus Christ until he comes again.

You and I can continue that work by embodying the gifts of the Spirit in our daily lives.

The word “Pentecost” comes from a Greek word meaning “fiftieth” – the fiftieth day after the Jewish Passover.  The Hebrews associated this with the covenant God made centuries before—a covenant summed up in that simple phrase: you are my people and I am your God.

In the Christian tradition, Pentecost celebrates an aspect of the entire paschal mystery – which included the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ and also the descent of the Spirit.

The letter of Paul to the Christian community at Corinth speaks about all the different gifts the Spirit bestows upon us – all for the greater common good.  Together, we can encourage and motivate one another, magnify each other’s efforts and abilities – and working together we can accomplish so much more.

A classic film captures for me an image of the Spirit.  You may have seen Chariots of Fire, about two British runners, who won the Olympics in 1924 through character, discipline and courage.  There is a powerful line in the film; runner Eric Liddell says “God has made me fast…The power is within.”

Yes, the Spirit of God is within us.  God is close to us.

To begin, God fashioned the universe and mirrored his image in earth and sea and sky and especially people.

God came closer when he became flesh in Jesus of Nazareth; he became one of us – ate and slept, worked and loved, walked and ran, laughed and wept, lived and died in our midst. This is the great mystery of the incarnation: The Word become flesh.

When he wanted to stay with us and yet had to leave, he gave himself to us in the signs of bread and wine:  This is my body; this is my blood.  Jesus left, yet he stays with us. The Living Christ is sacramentally alive among us.

Perhaps he knew that all of this would not be quite enough.  So he said to his disciples:  I will ask the Father and he will send another to befriend you, the Spirit of truth, dwelling within you.

We need not search for God; we need not envy the disciples who walked with Jesus.  God is in us. As St. Paul wrote:  We are living temples of God.

THIS IS THE LESSON OF PENTECOST.  The God of the universe, the triune God, lives within us; we are new creatures; we have a destiny: eternal life with God. And that life has already begun in us through the waters of baptism..

The same Spirit of God who spoke through the prophets of Ancient Israel, the same Spirit who overshadowed the Virgin Mary, who descended upon the disciples, lives within the Church--made up of saints and sinners-- and guides human history, despite the obstacles we put in God’s way, toward its ultimate fulfillment.

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