- Fr. John Jennings
Our Sacred Stories: PENTECOST AND THE SPIRIT AMONG US
Spirit is something we value. We all know persons with lots of spirit. They appear to be full of life, vibrant, confident, happy, outgoing, energetic, ready, and willing to take on anything. We speak of team spirit something that binds together and places a team or a group on a common path to achieve, to accomplish its aims and goals. We sometimes experience family spirit in those moments and occasions when we are together, when we recognize the ways in which we are related and share common family experiences. This is also the case with community spirit – whether in a parish, a neighbourhood, or a city. But can we capture what we mean by spirit, in words? This is more difficult. The best we can do is to describe what the experience of spirit involves, how it affects us.
We have the same challenge when we look to the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God. Generations of writers, thinkers, philosophers, and theologians have attempted to define or express what this Spirit is. Nothing adequately serves us in this. So we are left with the images we hear of from scripture or from artists: a great wind or tongues of fire or a life-giving breath or a dove. These are only somewhat helpful.
As with spirit in our human experiences, so with Spirit in our experience of God. We are best served by how the Spirit affects us. We can see this in all three readings. John’s Gospel (Jn.20:19-23) describes the disciples, cowering in fear after the crucifixion of Jesus, fearful that the same fate was to be theirs. The risen Jesus appears in their midst and confers the Spirit on them. The effect – they are transformed. The terrified disciples are given peace. They are invited to take part in Jesus’s mission, bringing peace and creating an open, inclusive, and reconciled world.
In the Letter of Paul to the Corinthians (1 Cor.12:3-7,12-13), the little Christian community in Corinth as well as every Christian community down through the ages, is called to recognize not only the variety of gifts, talents, and capacities they have, but also that they are one, united by the Spirit among them. It is an expression of the way in which the Spirit, the presence of God for all humanity unites us, all the peoples of the earth, in all places and all times. In the Spirit – we are one.
The Pentecost event helps us to recognize something remarkable about us, the community of Christians, in all ages. The peace that we have been given is a gift of the Spirit of God and the Spirit unifies us. This is the same life-giving Spirit that hovered over the waters of chaos in the poetic account of creation (Genesis 1:1-3). With God’s loving hand the Spirit was able to bring peace out of the chaos and with that peace came a new creation, with all its wonder and diversity. The Book of Genesis went on to describe the many, diverse aspects of this creation. It is one, united world and at the same time marked by great diversity.
In the piece drawn from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:1-11) that theme of oneness is expressed again. The gift of the Spirit breaks down the barrier of language and indeed all barriers between peoples. It draws us to the recognition that humanity is truly one in God’s eyes, and that God’s Spirit is conferred on all peoples regardless of gender, culture, colour, religion, or place.
May we pray on this day for a renewed experience of Pentecost in each of us, in all
Christian communities and in all the peoples of the earth. PEACE BE UPON US.