An inside job
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In my primary schooling years our Religious Education teachers used to show us pictures depicting the Holy Spirit resting on the disciples as flames. Reflecting on Pentecost now it seems that such images tended to portray people put on fire externally instead of internally as the Holy Spirit had done in Jerusalem.
In 13th century France real pigeons were released in the cathedrals on Pentecost Sunday during the singing of “Come, Holy Ghost”. People complained that something other than the Holy Spirit was dropping from the rafters.
Pentecost is a marvellous feast to give a witness to the power of God to act in our lives. It offers a portrait of the disciples gathered in Jerusalem waiting for something to happen. Life was not the same for them. Jesus, as they had come to know him and love him, was gone. Yes, there was a promise that he would send his Holy Spirit to them, but when? and how? The disciples had the experience of the death of Jesus. They had experienced the Risen Jesus, and been told not to cling to him but to let him go back to the Father – the Ascension. And then they experienced Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit who broke down their closed doors of fear and anxiety, and made them bold enough to proclaim the Good News to the whole world. Now they knew that they weren’t just breathing their own breath but that very breath of Christ: the Holy Spirit.
It’s what we do…
What follows this story of Pentecost in Acts is the sermon of Peter, who told the people that the disciples weren’t drunk, since it was only nine o’clock in the morning. No, Peter said, they were filled with the promised Spirit of Jesus Christ. At the end of this sermon, we are told that three thousand people stepped forward for baptism. I am reminded of my years at teachers’ college when I attended a very emotional religious service, where students expressed their feelings by jumping about and shouting… what I might now call a “Holy Roller Coaster” service. I wondered if all the jumping meant the Holy Spirit was really there. Reflecting back now, it doesn’t matter how high we jump up, it’s what we do when we come down that will tell if it is the real thing.
Truly, it would be good if we were more enthusiastic about our faith, but what matters is what we do in our everyday life. Does the Holy Spirit have a practical effect on our daily life?
Pentecost is not a time of completion, nor of clinging to the same old ways, but of moving forward into new ways, new structures, new ministries that proclaim the age-old Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ!
Some may think we have a vocation crisis in our Congregation today. I, however, believe we have a vocation opportunity, a new and marvellous way to respond to God’s call. At Pentecost, the fire rested on each disciple because God’s Holy Spirit had touched each one. No one was excluded. We are living behind locked doors. It’s time to step out and proclaim boldly the hope of Jesus Christ. Come Fire! Come Light! Come Truth!
Recently, at Pentecost, we celebrated the promise of Jesus given to us in this messianic age…. Jesus’ Spirit poured out on all flesh…young and old, male and female, rich and poor, straight and gay, married and single, clerical and lay, abled and disabled.
I close with a wonderful quote attributed to Peter Maurin, co-founder with Dorothy Day of The Catholic Worker:
have taken the dynamite
of the Church,
have wrapped it up
in nice phraseology,
placed it in an hermetic container
and sat on the lid.
It is about time
to blow the lid off…
Christian Brother Joachim K. ToRavit
republished June 2012
adapted from the May 2012 Paia Nius Leta of Oceania’s Melanesian Cluster