Sunday, June 4, 2017

Pentecost or Outpouring of the Spirit

Holy Spirit Window: St. Peter's Basilica
Pentecost celebrates the outpouring of the Spirit upon the disciples gathered in Jerusalem centuries ago. The lesson of Pentecost is simple yet profound: God lives in us; and we in God.

The images I like are “breath of God” or “gush of wind.” It's something you feel. It's catching the Spirit: feeling the Spirit of God moving to recreate us. The power and force and energy and vitality of the Spirit is within us.  It moves us, “seizes us” so that we can be a channel of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-discipline to each other, as St. Paul describes so powerfully.

Pentecost concludes the Easter season and begins the mission of the Church, the people of God, to continue the saving work of Jesus Christ until he comes again in great glory and power. And one way we can continue that work is by embodying the gifts of the Spirit: wisdom (to recognize what truly matters), intelligence (to discern what's true), courage (to stand up for what's right), empathy or compassion (for the needy), good judgment (to do the right thing), and wonder and awe (to worship the great God of this universe).

The word “Pentecost” comes from a Greek word meaning “fiftieth” – the fiftieth day after Passover.  The Hebrews initially celebrated this festival after harvesting the spring wheat in their fields. Later they associated this festival with the covenant God made with their forebears on Mt. Sinai—a covenant summed up in the phrase: you are my people and I am your God.

In the Christian tradition, Pentecost gradually celebrated one aspect of the entire paschal mystery: including the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ and also the descent of the Spirit.

The Gospel according to John describes a post resurrection appearance of Jesus where he breathes upon the disciples (as God breathed life into us in the beginning) and in that gesture bestows the Spirit upon the disciples.

So you may ask: what does the Spirit of God do within us? It’s tremendous: the God of the universe, the triune God, lives within us.  Because of this, we are new creatures; we have a destiny: eternal life with God. That life has already begun. To see what the Spirit can do, look at the early disciples: transformed from cowards, hiding behind a closed door, into heroes proclaiming the good news.

Let us pray that the Holy Spirit whose gifts we already possess will empower us to live the results of the Spirit's presence in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-discipline.

The same Spirit of God spoke through the prophets of ancient Israel, overshadowed the Virgin Mary, descended upon the disciples, lives within the Church community of believers, and guides human history, despite its ups and downs, toward its ultimate fulfillment.

That Spirit lives within you and me and can transform us if we will let him.

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