Scripture Readings for Mass of the Day: I: Acts2: 1-11; Responsorial: Psalm 104; II: I Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13; Gospel: John 20:19-23 & Sequence
Traditional sacred art commonly portrays the out pouring of the promised Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and our Blessed Mother with, perhaps at times, other disciples in the room as amazed and awestruck… spectators.
This holy day of Pentecost, 2020, brings us to realize that these traditional images, however beautiful, are not as Scripture described the event, not as God intended and especially not as is so urgently needed in the lives of the faithful and the world this year of 2020!
As we continue our shared wilderness journey through the Covid pandemic we have been faced with many uncertainties and challenges. The loss of the ability to gather together for Mass has compounded the difficulty of these days. Recently there had been the hope, and in some areas, the start to allow the gathering for our liturgies and sacraments. In our parish of St. Peters we still seek and await that day in faith and prayer.
All of this has been drenched this past week in the news of a tragic murder of a man under arrest in Minnesota and now another seeming pandemic of civil unrest, riots and anarchy throughout the country. The intensity of anger and hate is combined with great fear and weakness in the broad leadership of the country. This brings many to again ask on what is meant to be a day of great celebration in the Church, Where is God? Where is the power of the Holy Spirit so needed in the world and in our homes and hearts at this time?
The answers to those questions are not in the news or the images and stories on social media. The answers are not in the words or actions of the priests or bishops. The answer to where is God, where is the promised Presence and power of the Holy Spirit is in the hearts of all the faithful. The answers are found when we allow the Spirit of God to search our hearts in the light of God’s Word to see where, in what or who is the faith of the faithful? We are brought to urgently understand, we as the Body of Christ, the people of God, are NOT called to be spectators and observers of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We are ALL called to be baptized, IMMERSED with and in the Presence and Power of God the Holy Spirit.
This past year, thus far, has given to everyone intense , ongoing and powerful invitations to…FEAR, to WORRY and DOUBT. We all are given, a regular abundant feast of the gospel of human understanding and opinion. We are instilled with many and frequent sermons of the “truths” and gospel of science, professed medical evidence (even if inconclusive , subjective and contradictory) and the promises of politicians (of left and right) of health, wealth and peace. [Note: This does not imply we are to reject sound scientific and medical direction and care. But it must be seen, not as Gospel but as tools given by God to be used in God’s wisdom]. And now added to this morass of humanistic wisdom we are facing civil violence and unrest of profound dimensions as people, especially the poor and oppressed, respond in their anger, fear and powerlessness. Indeed this Feast of Pentecost, 2020, could well be experienced as a very dark and dismal time of …despair. IF!
IF the human soul chooses to become immersed in all this news and wisdom of the world we will be truly immersed, filled, drenched in..despair.
IF!! However we chose to remember and BELIEVE God has not given us a Spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind we will grow to be immersed in the power and Spirit of God for these days in which we are called to live and follow Him. And we will, celebrate the Truth, as He promised that as our day is, so shall our strength be!
This great and holy Feast of Pentecost, 2020, we are called to realize and be a faith-filled people of God sharing in the times and places of our daily lives the Real Presence of God. We are called to be the living tabernacles carrying about our places of life, our hopes and wounds The promise and Presence of Jesus, in His Holy Spirit being, becoming vessels of God’s power, peace and courageous love… the power of true holiness.
A key and recurring promise of God, in both Old and New Testament readings is that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit will be with POWER!. Looking to the disciples in the upper room on the day of Pentecost they were gathered, behind closed doors in fear and uncertainty. But also in obedient prayer. as they chose to let go their doubts and uncertainties and rather seek God and His promised they prayed. And at the time chosen by God they ALL received the outpouring promised from Jesus. It has become a great temptation to, as the sacred art illustrates to be very pious… observors. Many the Christian as become very comfortable sitting, observing the bishops and priests, the pastors and and liturgies and worship services so beautifully produced. We attend to be…”fed” and then go home comfortably “filled” with the Comforter to lives of Christian knowledge.
God never intended the Promise of the Paraclete to be only for the ordained or religious but for ALL the people of God. And that truth is being realized, now more than ever that this Presence of God is so necessary to combat the evil blot of worldly wisdom and fear we face.
God also calls all the faithful to be a people of His peace that surpasses all understanding. We are called to be living in the Peace of God not found in medicine, political diatribes or police tear gas. This world is a place of great conflict between good and evil, between God and the prince of lies and darkness. True, eternal peace, even in the very midst of suffering and strife is and can be found in the Spirit of Jesus poured into our hearts on Pentecost. And we are called to be warriors of….PEACE and healing, of mercy and hope to those wounded and bound in the ways of the world. What would happen in our world and lives if we trained and sought to wage peace as intensely as we do war and force? To be such warriors of the Holy Spirit we must understand we are called to be courageous in God’s holy love!
To understand this aspect of the Spirit-filled life we need only prayerfully look at the lives of the disciples, from Peter and the apostles to the others, some soon to be called as deacons, many to be called to be..martyrs. From the prayerfully, timid hiding place of the upper room the Church, the People of God, were blown out into their world. In their holy love they could not contain the precious seeds of the Gospel but scattered them with contagious joy into the hearts of those struggling with the lies of the evil one. Today, Pentecost Sunday, 2020 in a world locked in battle with the Covid virus, in cities smoldering and trashed, in hearts crippled by fear and hurts we must respond in God’s courage and holy love….in the Presence of the Holy Spirit.
We would do very well to think of the many saints of God, St. Francis of Assisi, daring to care for, even kiss the leper, St. Roche, in the wisdom of God’s love caring for those suffering in the plagues of his day, of the many women and men of God, disdaining the possible costs, discarding their fears who went out to dare to touch and care for the poor, the sick, the hated, all for the healing mercy and love of God.
This time in which we live we battle the great Covid pandemic. But we also battle even greater pandemics of fear and hate, prejudice and greed. Even in the church there is a fervor to exclude and judge those whose understanding of liturgy doe snot match those esteemed by some. There is an almost inquisitional enthusiasm to battle those not considered suitable to share in the Body of Christ as judged baby some self-perceived experts.
This holy and solemn, beautiful and powerful celebration of Pentecost, 2020, may we earnestly seek God’s holy fire to enflame our passions for..Him and His Kingdom. May we burn with the same redeeming love for others as God does..for us. And may we grow forward as holy, gentle, fearless warriors empowered in the Holy Spirit to be and become people and places of God’s healing Power, world quenching Peace, and alive in God’s Courageous love and hope.