Reflections from Fr Claude

Pentecost Sunday

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful

and kindle in us the fire of your love.

Send forth your Spirit

and we shall be created,

and you shall renew the face of the earth.'

Please note that two gospel readings are proposed for today. These reflections will refer to both.

Today, in our celebration of Pentecost, despite death and destruction, famine and genocide, we dare to say that God can blow new energy into people and places. It is a moment in history that continually unravels itself within our lives.

It is a way of life, something lived out, not an annual celebration. It is not just a celebration of the birth of the church but celebrates being church. Denis Edwards once warned, ‘Many Christians think of the Spirit as coming at Pentecost, with little sense of the Spirit's work in creation, grace, and incarnation. The focus is so much on the great event of Pentecost that the rest of the story of the Spirit is forgotten.’  It is a continuing event that dares us to become a community that keeps alive the flame of passion for God and the world that God loves. This unseen, immeasurable presence of God in our lives, our world and church animate us towards Gospel justice and mercy and brings God’s life and love to our broken world. We celebrate the presence of the Spirit that changes people and renews creation today. From the outset, God's Spirit is actively engaged in the creation of the cosmos. Denis Edwards explains, ‘The story of the Spirit's work in our world embraces the universe itself. The Creator Spirit is the dynamic, energizing power of God enabling our observable universe to exist and to evolve from the first moment of its existence fourteen billion years ago.’  Where the Book of Genesis describes the creation of the world, the Acts of the Apostles today tell of another beginning.  Whatever transpired in that Upper Room, the coming of Spirit prompted fear disciples to go out and boldly proclaim the Good News.  They moved from a state of vulnerability into a transforming force for the Reign of God.

 

In John 20, the disciples were fearful and in disarray, with a deep sense of failure and betrayal, as they faced their misguided ambitions and weaknesses. Fear in the church and in society can stifle love and outreach. Fear of losing privilege, status and power leads to systemic inequality, entrenched poverty and brutality towards people who are ‘other.’ Breathing peace upon the gathered community was not about experiencing his presence but about making him – with his wounds – present in solidarity with the wounds of people and creation. These reveal his preferences and commitment. His wounds reveal ‘Whatever you do to the least, you do to me’ (Matthew 25).’ The breath of the Spirit caused the disciples to realise their responsibility to be agents - like us - of the new creation and bring forth justice, transform social policy, and liberate people beyond human failure into light and peace. It is the light of the Spirit makes us aware of incongruities, inequalities, and injustice in our community

 

Today’s readings tell us about human unity, mutual responsibility and care of the most vulnerable.  Pope Francis continually reminds us that we and creation are interconnected, and peace and justice are not possible if this is not realised. If God does not give up on this messy human enterprise, then neither must we. There is a story of hidden grace at work often beyond our awareness. This grace, love, Spirit moves us from fear to fearlessness, from powerlessness to passionate power. Where people maintained and protected their differences behind ethnocentric walls, they discovered that nothing was lost by being at one with all others. 

The Jesus who bears wounds reminds us that the Spirit takes us into those places of suffering in our world which call forth compassion and touch from us. Where there is increasing hostility and intolerance of diversity, Pentecost challenges us to be a Church that models the spirit of unity in diversity. As followers of the God of justice, we cannot remain silent and complacent when those in power try to impose a ‘new normal’ that reflects only their interests. We must step up, speak out, and act together – be prophetic. God birthed the Church out of chaos and suffering. And so, may the Church with its people give birth to a ‘new normal’ that is founded upon justice and peace. As we reflect on people in our own communities and beyond that suffer from illness, famine, abuse of state power, dismissal of certain groups in the church, we must listen to their tongues and speak out. ‘We may have different religions, different languages, different coloured skin, but we all belong to one human race.’ (Kofi Annan). We are invited to listen to the cries of broken and hurting people in order to speak their language.  The Spirit allows for every language to be spoken and heard. It breaks through human boundaries and creates a space where everyone present is welcomed. It is a force of liberation, a force of movement that empowers the disciples despite their fear to leave the upper room and share the gospel. We are not presented with a uniform, homogeneous community, but with a divine power that traverses all our differences. God’s will is to unite us in our diversity, not to extinguish it.

 

Pentecost happened over two thousand years ago had implications for the public concerns of that time and ramifications for the whole society.  What appeared as a private event of worship among a small group of people, blew them into the public square where they began speaking in the languages of people from faraway places about the life-changing, world-freeing, death-breaking love of Jesus Christ. The structures of sin both within the religious system and outside in the economic and military systems did everything they could to shut them up, shut them down, and shut them out.

The Spirit is compelling us to go out into the public square to live a faith that it makes a difference for people even as many, if not most Christians, prefer to stay safe. For others, the Spirit gives a language and the courage to say things that need to be said, e.g., dismantling systems of racism and colonialism that continue to hurt First Nations people, discrimination that negatively impacts on people of varying gender and faith, lack of equity for all people in education and health. We must advocate for justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion at every level – in our workplaces, in our government, in the business community, and especially in our churches. Today many people, Christian and non-Christian, people of faith and no faith protest a genocide in Gaza and the silence of religious leaders and complicity of politicians; they protest domestic violence; they protest brutal treatment of people who are gender diverse; they protest the degradation of God’s creation. We see, as on the day of Pentecost, streets are filled with people of all skin colours, clothing, political views, different hair styles, languages and dialects. They come from all walks of life to demand that leaders not ignore injustice. They stand with their siblings and speak one voice for peace and justice – even in different languages. Jesus described the Holy Spirit as the Advocate – the one who acts for justice and righteousness (John 14:26).  The Spirit’s role is to bring people together across cultures and religions and languages.

 

Let us train ourselves to see creation and our place within it with new eyes. Let us look for God's creative presence and dynamic Spirit at work in the universe and its action throughout the broader community of God's creation. The gift of speaking the gospel of Jesus Christ did not end on that day of Pentecost.  You can speak in your own tongue of fire about God’s deeds of power!

 


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