Sunday ~ 28 May 2024 ~ Solemnity of Pentecost ~ Bible Readings for Mass (Vigil Mass): I: Genesis 11:1-9; Responsorial: Psalm 33; II: Daniel 3: 52-56; Responsorial: Psalm 19; III: Ezekiel 37: 1-14; Psalm 107; IV: Joel 3:1-5; Responsorial: Psalm 104; Epistle: Romans 8: 22-27; Gospel: John 7: 37-39
We gather today to celebrate Pentecost. Our Easter pilgrimage brings us to grow on now in the promised fullness of the Holy Spirit. The power, promise, and Presence of Christ, risen from the dead and ascended to God the Father brings us to humbly gather and prayerfully wait upon our God and Savior. The deep peace and security of this holy cycle of waiting upon and welcoming the fuller Presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives and church is one well mapped out by God.
It is no accident that the Vigil Mass for Pentecost is so infused with Scripture. There will be no regret for anyone who takes the time to quietly and prayerfully reflect on each of the readings listed above. To do so is to follow the Lord in the preparations and promises of God to bring into the church and into our lives the Holy Spirit. To do so is to grow in the realization that the Spirit of God is united with, deeply, eternally, to the living Word of God. We must remember The Spirit of God desires not just a visit. God longs for us to be BAPTIZED, that is to accurately translate IMMERSE for each believer in the Presence of the Holy Spirit. Given in Baptism and opened and immersed in Confirmation the gift of the Holy Spirit is essential for all Christians.
Many are the gifts, works, manifestations, and graces we should experience as a result of this abundance of God in our lives. Many, too are the questions that arise at various times and teachings that have come pertaining to the promised Advocate of God in the Church. It is ironic that for so long so many have sought to organize, direct and control the wind, the very Breath of God in our midst. Again, there are many aspects of The Spirit of God we could well explore. But let us seek the Spirit’s wisdom pertaining to the symbolism and truth of The Holy Spirit and Tongues of Fire and Water.
The account of the birth of the church that Pentecost, fifty days after Jesus had risen from the dead describes the disciples waiting in prayer in the upper room. It was a season of reading the Old Testament promises, remembering the words of Jesus, and prayer. It was, and is a season that for the follower of Christ never ends. Always we seek to receive, to grow into God’s promise and Presence. And in God’s way and time, the Promise came. Like a mighty wind tongues of fire came upon all in the room. The Holy Spirit came not just to Mary, or to the Apostles but to all the disciples, men, and women seeking God in that place. So it is today. We all must seek God. We all must be filled anew with God’s promises and power.
We must each know the truth and force of the tongues of fire in our lives. Now, clearly, we are not Peter, James, or any of those apostles. Not all are called to be priests, bishops, or religious servants of God. But as the baptized, as followers of Christ, we each must know the grace of the tongues of fire.
It should be noted that of the gifts and works of the Holy Spirit listed in Scripture, several relate to the tongue, our words, and our message. The gift of tongues, teaching, preaching, encouragement singing of psalms, and spiritual songs to share but a few all express God’s recognition that the human tongue needs a lot of help. St. James in his epistle speaks of how powerful the tongues are for good and for evil.
A look at the media or social media will illustrate this quickly. Just listening to a gathering of Christians will bring one to hear a vast array of messages. Some good, faith-filled, and proclaiming the Presence of God. But others not so much. The Christian mouth is too often filled with words of anger, judgment, doubt, fear, and even hate. Chords of pride and spiritual arrogance too often accompany worn verses of divisive and exclusive spirituality focused on self-awareness instead of…Jesus.
This Pentecost we all would do well to bring to our Heavenly Father an earnest seeking of the Lordship of the Holy Spirit over our words, our message. We each need to allow the fire of God to burn away the dross of our empty, negative words and ramblings. Let us commit to those holy flames our dead and tired litanies of judgment, doubt, division, and fear. May we then seek the fire of the Spirit to ignite, from our hearts, God’s words of hope, mercy, and a love that welcomes others to grow with us in our quest for God’s Kingdom. Many are hearts and lives bound in doubt, sin, and chains of self. And for all of us, it is only the fire of God that can melt and break free hearts and lives long cold, and dead in our brokenness. From the despair and darkness of sin, God would free us to the freedom and joy of life in the Spirit. It is, perhaps a glimpse at the smile of God we see the holy paradox God uses to bring His Spirit into our lives. For it is in the Fire of God we are called to know and share the Living Waters of Jesus flowing from our hearts.
It is from our gospel for this Vigil Mass we hear the Words of Jesus call to us to let, from our hearts flow rivers of living water. Christ is speaking of His Spirit, sent from our heavenly Father. We are called to immerse ourselves in the fullness of the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the flowing, abundant Living Water that is God, the Love of the Father, the Mercy of Jesus, and the Power of the Holy Spirit we are called to be drenched, immersed, swimming. And sharing. But, sadly the Christian life is much like some people at the lake or river. Perhaps they have not yet learned to swim. Or they fear the cold, the depth, the unknown. Plunging into a mountain lake or a flowing river involves letting go of the security of our special spot on the shore. But perhaps for some the way into the depths is step-by-step, gradually listening to and responding to our Heavenly Father assuring us it is alright. He won’t let us drown. Nothing is quite so special as a child (of any age) who has entered the water fearful and unsure to discover that they can learn to swim. It is as we learn the freedom of God’s holy waters we discover new freedom, healing, and increased power as we but follow our Lord.
This all applies especially to our words. Too often we let the dry harsh words from drought-stricken hearts to issue forth with words of judgment, doubt anger, and division. Too often where words of the living waters of God’s hope and welcome need to be flowing we find dry empty creekbeds and thirsty souls.
This Pentecost the Church, the world faces great trials and battles. As it always has. But as we draw closer to the return of Christ these tests will intensify. Now more than ever the fire of God empowering our lives and words is needed so that our Lord’s living waters can flow with all God’s power to quench the thirsts and droughts of sin and the world and to lift us heavenward in God’s mercy and holy hope.
Come Holy Spirit!