Pentecost Sunday – 23 May 2021 – Bible Readings for Mass of the Day: I: Acts 2: 1-11; Responsorial: Psalm 104; II: I Corinthians 12: 3b-7, 12-13; Gospel: John 20: 19-23
Pentecost Sunday brings us to the end of the Easter season. The 40 days of Lent have been followed by the 40 days of Easter. We are brought to an holy threshold as we now enter into the longest season of Ordinary Time. In many ways the Liturgical seasons reflect the realities of the life of faith. We have the mountain top joys of Christmas and Easter with the prayerful period of reflection and deepened conversion during Lent. These Christian steps of pilgrimage are now lived out in our day-to-day lives in Ordinary Time. Or are they? While the moments of special or great graces will come it seems that it is in the everyday walk that we often lose our momentum for Christ. It is a painful irony observed by pastors, catechists, and the faithful that this seeming inevitable struggle is most evident with the Sacrament of Confirmation. So often we share and witness the study and seeming faith of a Christian soul preparing for the vital gift from God. But we also observe, many times, the seeming disappearance of the Confirmandi after the sacrament is received. We may observe similar struggles when we attend a parish mission or retreat. The Holy Spirit moves and inspires deeply. But the days and weeks following we seem to lose what was experienced.
Both Old and New Testament share numerous and vibrant promises from God of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The power and promise of God witnessed on the day of Pentecost for the church. In those early days, in the early church the wind and fire of God, the Holy Spirit was truly alive and seen by the faithful and the world. The Apostles spoke of being baptized in the Holy Spirit. They were speaking of being immersed in the Spirit of God. But why don’t we see that same grace and power today? Was that great outpouring of God only for a specific time and select souls? Was it only on the actual Apostles and the Blessed Virgin? Or was it on all the disciples, men and women, who were present in the Upper Room that day? Where is the Promise of Pentecost from God today?
A careful reading and study of the New Testament accounts of that day along with the Scriptural promises of the Comforter, the Paraclete, would clearly indicate that the Holy Spirit was given to all present in that room that day. The work of the Apostles was confirmed and distinctly empowered. But so was the witness and work of the other disciples in their work of the Kingdom of Christ. It is perhaps also significant that the reference in Acts chapter 1 of Mary, the Blessed Virgin, is the last direct reference to the Mother of Jesus in the Scriptures. She who conceived our Savior by the Holy Spirit is last spoken of as His Church was born, bby the same Holy Spirit. And all for the glory of God. Mary was a most profound example of the Spirit-filled, Spirit-immersed and empowered servant and witness for our Lord. She was a most profound example of someone unafraid of the wind and fire of God.
For the people in the Upper Room, living in the dry, fire-prone hills of Palestine wind and fire were often and wisely feared. They, like most Californians, knew well how destructive and deadly wildfires could be. When we think of wind and fire here in wine country we must contend with harsh memories of great losses experienced especially the past few years.
It may seem absurd to compare the outpouring, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit to wildfire. But perhaps the comparison is closer than we think. The witnesses to that first Pentecost were astounded and subsequently fearful on that first Pentecost. This was not the norm for Pentecost in Jerusalem. And the power-filled clarity of the witness of the Presence of God with the need for repentance was a force they could not ignore. Anyone who has experienced a full wildfire knows there is a power greater than their ability to control at hand. There is also a sense of the peril of displeasing God. Even the most devout skeptics will often find themselves praying in the face of such fire.
When asking why so many people allow their faith to be quenched after Confirmation we might consider this comparison. People, especially materialistic, techno-enamored people tend to embrace the myth of control of self and life. Any reflection upon advertisements, products, practices will quickly find extensive false promises of CONTROL of….illness, wealth, family happiness, even hair. The ability to plan and follow what we think our life is about is increasingly a gospel of favor for many. Compare that illusion with the Promise of God of being immersed in the Holy Spirit. If I really say yes to God, if I really seek to be filled with the wind and fire of the Holy Spirit what will happen? Where will God lead? So a choice is made….my control and comfortable plans…or…the wind and fire of God?
But this doesn’t just apply to those newly confirmed. It apples to every baptized believer and especially to all who have received the graces of Confirmation. We each have received many holy, merciful promises of the Holy Spirit in our life. In Confirmation, in grace-moments, in creation, in each other. But so often those promises, those gifts, these treasures from God remain unopened.
This Pentecost Sunday the Spirit of God would seek to speak to our hearts, to open our lives to a deeper and fuller immersion in God. The fears of this world are lies that would seek to rob us of all God is and would be for us. The lies of pride and control would rob us of all we are called by our Savior and Lord to be and to become. The Holy Spirit, the Wind and Fire of God would immerse and empower us to be the servants and witnesses of Christ and His Kingdom. As we reflect on the promise of the Comforter we must remember that indeed God is the wind and fire. But NOT of division, spiritual pride, judgement and condemnation. The Wind and Fire of God will blow away the useless chaff and waste of our lives and place within our hearts the unquenchable love of God that would burn with hope and mercy for others and the for the glory of God. Instead of dead fruits of lust, ego, greed and strife we will realize the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
Pentecost Sunday, a time to prayerfully reflect upon the gift, the promises of God in our lives, in our church. As we also begin our daily walk in the in the adventures of Ordinary times it is a time to realize our control of life is very limited at best. Our plans, hopes are important but even more vital is that our whole being be immersed in the Presence and Promises of God. May we each and together be true witnesses of the Power of Pentecost!