12Jun 12 June Pentecost Sunday

Theme

As the Holy Spirit inspired courage and energy in the apostles, at the beginning, so the Spirit brings about inspiration and fruitfulness in our lives today, through love, joy, peace, patience, and self-control.

Readings

Acts 2:1-11. The power and Spirit of God gives energy to the apostles and sends them out on their mission. This scene in the beginning of the Church which will grow to include all peoples.

1 Cor 12:3-7,12-13. The spirit is the way in which Christ works in his community, the Church and manifests himself in diverse ways within one body.

Jn 20:19-23. The disciples receive the life-giving power of the Spirit to continue the mission of Jesus.Through this Spirit they grow in his life and communicate it to those willing to believe.

Bidding Prayers:

– for a new Pentecost within the heart and soul of all Christians.

– that the Holy Spirit will help us to renew the face of the earth.

– that we may each place our own unique talents under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, at the service of the church.

– that we may always follow the generous impulses planted within us by the Spirit of God.

A Better Impulse (Joseph Cassidy)

The Holy Spirit used to be the forgotten person of the Trinity. Perhaps he suffered from being a spirit. For many of us, only concrete things are real. The Father and Son make an impact because one took flesh and the other was given a beard. Have you ever imagined the Holy Spirit with a beard? Whatever the reason, even among devout Christians, the Holy Spirit had been overlooked. He had been cast in the role of a third candidate, valued for his transfers to the front-runners, but never earmarked for a seat in the House, much less a post in the Cabinet. It’s only recently that he has been coming into his own.

It’s about time too! There are several reasons why we should never forget the Spirit. The first is that he wasn’t forgotten by Christ. On the contrary. On the eve of Christ’s Passion, he promised to send him to the disciples. In fact, he took pains to emphasise the importance of the Spirit’s role. Here was no poor substitute – a duckling doing “locum” for a swan. He would be a helper, a counsellor, a teacher – a replacement for Christ himself. Indeed, Our Lord’s words of introduction are rather startling: “It is for your own good that I am going, because unless I go, the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (Jn 16:7).

To our advantage? People in public life, when they come to retire, sometimes pay compliments, with calculated modesty to their less illustrious successors. Our Lord was not being modest. He was not patronising the Spirit. He was speaking the truth. The advantage of which he spoke lay in this. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ himself. Christ, as man, was limited by space and time. He could only work with and through the people of his own generation. He couldn’t talk, no more than you can, to the people in Timbuctoo. The Spirit of Christ would not be limited in that way. He would have the freedom of the wind. He would have the freedom of every heart in every generation. Instead of living with some, he could now live within all. He would have the world at his fingertips. So the Spirit’s presence would make good Christ’s promise: “And know, that I am with you always; yes to the end of time” (Mt 28:20).

There is a second reason for acknowledging the Spirit. It is the example given by the early Christians. He made such a difference to their lives that they could never forget him. Before his coming they were timid and afraid, like children huddling together in a storm. When he descended upon them in a miraculous confusion of wind, fire and speech, they were utterly transformed. “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4), St Luke tells us, and we think of billowing sails or mothers filled with child. But some of the bystanders were less poetic in their reaction. “They’re drunk” (Acts 2:13), they sneered, and for once the cynics were right, drunk they were – drunk with the Spirit of Christ’s love and their own furious eagerness to proclaim his message. The Spirit was breathing where he would and from now on “Jesus is Lord” (1 Cor 12:3) would be shouted from the housetops.

The early Christians stayed drunk for life. They were never to be sober again. For as long as they lived, the Spirit would stay in the bloodstream. Every decision they made would be Spirit-shaped: the choice of seven deacons; the admission of Gentiles to the Church; the sending of Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. And the influence of the Spirit was not confined to decision-making at executive level. It was felt at the ordinary level too, at what politicians love to call the “grassroots.” It was felt in the gifts that were Spirit, sent for the service of the Church – unusual gifts like healing or prophecy, designed to meet the needs of an infant Church, but ordinary gifts too, required to meet the needs of God’s children everywhere – “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self control” (Ga 5:22).

It is by exercising these gifts that we remember the Spirit best. When we are loyal to a demanding partner, when we are cheerful and courageous, when we console the bereaved, link the old or encourage the young, we are doing the work of the Holy Spirit. When we curb our evil instincts, we honour him. When we respond to the better impulse, we honour him more. The Holy Spirit is “the rising sap’. He is also the climbing warmth in our hearts. It is through and with our better instincts that the Spirit works. “Whether we’re aware of it or not, he is never idle. Our part is to grunt and heave with him and to push our stalling lives to the top of the hill.

Generous Forces (Liam Swords)

One summer, while working in a parish in San José, south of San Francisco. During my stay, some parishioners invited me to what appeared to be a prayer meeting. There were thirty or forty people present, men and women, young and old. We sang hymns, we held hands, we prayed and we meditated. While we were meditating in silence, suddenly one of the group began to speak or, rather, language began to pour out of him. The problem was, it was completely incomprehensible gibberish. It was an eerie experience and I felt a shiver run down my spine. When the outburst came to an end, another member of the group prayed for the gift of understanding and after a decent interval a third member translated or interpreted the gibberish. There was nothing extraordinary about the content of the message. What was extraordinary was the event itself. I did not realise then but I learned shortly afterwards that this was an early meeting of what was called a charismatic group. It was in fact the second such group ever founded in the world. During the rest of that decade, the Charismatic Movement spread rapidly all over the world. What I had experienced that night in San José was an expression of the gift of tongues, first practiced by the apostles on the day of Pentecost.

Despite the obvious good the charismatic movement achieved, I always had two reservations about it. I felt that it had privileged access to the Holy Spirit and that the latter had a marked preference for communicating with organised groups. There was also a tendency, as on that night in San José; to highlight the extraordinary manifestations of the Holy Spirit, as the gift of tongues and the gift of healing, much to the detriment of the far more numerous routine outpourings of the Spirit. Everybody has access to the Holy Spirit and he has access to everybody, and that includes those who are not religious as well as those who are, those who are affiliated to a religion as well as those who are not. “The Spirit breathes – where he will.” It is through the individual, with his unique gifts, that the Holy Spirit operates par excellence. Everybody has experienced his gentle urgings. Those moments in our lives when we are tempted to surpass ourselves, to do something almost bordering on the heroic, to reach out and help someone in trouble, to sacrifice our time and our well-being for totally unselfish reasons. In reality, these moments are rare and the number of times we yield to these temptations rarer still. Probably the real failures in our lives are not the bad temptations we succumb to but the good ones we resist. We should give way to our generous impulses instead of pulling back at the last moment as we do, so thwarting the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

He works best with individuals with their unique talents and special opportunities. Look at the history of the world, even in our own century. Every earth-shaking movement every happening that renewed the face of the earth was invariably the brainchild of a single individual. Martin Luther King’s crusade for the civil rights of American blacks; Mahatma Ghandi almost single-handedly emancipating an entire subcontinent. What else is the history of the church but the lives of the saints, a succession of individuals of the calibre of Francis of Assisi, Ignatius Loyola, Vincent de Paul, stretching down to a John XXIII and a Mother Teresa of Calcutta in our own time? More recently, the sudden dissolution of the Eastern Bloc is largely due to individuals such as Lech Walesa, Vaclav Havel, Alexander Sakharov or even Mikhail Gorbachev? History is nothing else but “his story” and “her story.” These individuals, together with the Holy Spirit, renewed the face of the earth. You too, together with the Holy Spirit, can do likewise. This is the message of Pentecost.

Spirit of loyalty (Martin Hogan)

We appreciate it when people are open and truthful with us. None of us likes to be deceived. We can be understanding of people who fail in some significant way, if they acknowledge it and are open and truthful about it. But if they pretend that all is well when it is not, we feel cheated. We can sympathize with weakness, because we know that there but for the grace of God go any one of us, but we are irritated by deception and pretence.

There was a lot of talk about the activities of double agents in the North during the height of the troubles. A double agent is someone whose real loyalty is in direct opposition to his proclaimed loyalty. On one occasion, Jesus’ opponents accused him of being a double agent. While Jesus proclaimed himself to be an agent of God’s power, his opponents declared that in reality he was under the power of Satan, “by the ruler of demons he casts out demons.” In other words, they were claiming that his public self was not his real self, that he was a deceiver. There was, of course, no conflict between who Jesus publicly claimed to be and the person he was. There was total harmony between his public persona and his inner self. He was a man of truth, or as we might say today, a person of integrity.

Today is the feast of the Holy Spirit. According to today’s gospel reading, the Holy Spirit is the “Spirit of Truth,” and the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives is to lead us to the complete truth. In other words, the Holy Spirit works to keep us truthful, to make us people of integrity. The more open we are to the Spirit, the more of a single agent we become, or, to put it another way, the greater harmony there will be between who we proclaim to be and who we are in reality.

However, that quality of complete integrity does not come to us overnight. Jesus speaks of the Spirit as leading us to the complete truth. It is always the case that we need to be led towards the truth, towards an ever more truthful way of being. We are always on the way to that state; we never fully arrive there in this life. At every step of our life’s journey, we look to the Spirit to lead us to the complete truth, to a completely truthful life style. As Paul puts it in the second reading, we look to be guided by the Spirit, to be directed by the Spirit.

When we come to Mass on a Sunday we proclaim the gospel, and we proclaim ourselves to be gospel people. There will always be some gap between this proclamation that we make and the daily reality of our lives, simply because the gospel we proclaim is a high ideal, and the Christ we follow is always beyond us to some extent. We will always be straining to reach to the values of the gospel. In that sense, being a Christian is a strain; there is a tension involved. But it is a healthy tension. It is a strain and a tension that keeps us on our toes, that gives us something worthwhile to aim for. Yes, we fall short and we miss the mark, but as Paul reminds us, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness.” The Spirit is given to us to help us keep going, especially in those times when we are painfully away of the gap between who we feel called to be and who we are in reality.

At the first Pentecost, the Spirit was given those who knew all about that gap from their own bitter experience. The disciples had only recently deserted the one they had set out to follow with great enthusiasm in Galilee. Peter had publicly proclaimed himself to be somebody he was not. It was to such people that the Spirit was given, and given repeatedly. It is to such people – all of us here this morning – that the Spirit is given today. The Spirit is given to those who know they have not yet reached the complete truth, those who know they are not yet people of complete integrity. All that is asked of such people, of us, is that we recognize that truth, and implore the coming of the Spirit in our need, in our weakness. The Sequence before the gospel captures that attitude beautifully, “Heal our wounds, our strength renew, on our dryness pour thy dew; wash the stains of guilt away.” That is the prayer of people who know they have not yet arrived; it is the prayer of the church. Pentecost is God’s gift to those who are struggling to live the gospel, and it is a gift God gives over and over again to those who know their need of it.

The Lord calls us to a high ideal, but he makes allowances for the pace at which we can travel. In the gospel reading today, Jesus says to his disciples, “I have many things to say to you, but they would be too much for you now” – as much as to say, “you have a long way to go, but one step at a time.” We all have a long way to go, but the Lord only asks us to take the next step we are capable of taking, and he gives us the Holy Spirit to help us to take that step. On this feast of Pentecost we implore the coming of that Spirit into our own lives, as we pray, “Come Holy Spirit.”

Source of Life (John Walsh)

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and God’s Spirit hovered over the water.” So begins the account of creation in the Bible, which saw the Spirit of God as bringing about the birth of all living creatures. The Spirit was the source of life. In the first chapter of St John’s gospel, John the Baptist says to his followers, “The one on whom you see the Spirit come down and rest is the one who is going to baptise with the Holy Spirit.” In other words there is going to be a new creation; mankind is going to be born again in the Spirit. This had been foretold in the Old Testament. The prophet Isaiah (11:1+) had said repeatedly that the Spirit would rest on the “shoot that springs from the stock of Jesse,” Jesse being the father of king David, from whom Christ was descended.

Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, was visited in a special way by the Holy Spirit at his baptism, was led by the Holy Spirit out into the desert for 40 days to be confronted by Satan. We can say that everything Christ did during his public life was done under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and by his power. Those who would sin against, or revile, the Holy Spirit, according to Christ, would be guilty of a sin which would never be pardoned. Moreover, Christ made a solemn promise that after his Ascension there would be an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on his followers which would surpass everything that had gone before. Those who were so privileged were granted signs and gifts which clearly could only come from God, the most striking one being the gift of tongues, by which foreigners who did not speak Aramaic were able to understand every word said in that language, by Christ’s disciples.

But the work of the Holy Spirit was not confined to these extraordinary happenings. He was active, and continues to be so, in the everyday life of each individual Christian, as well as in the Church as a whole. We are all temples of the Holy Spirit, who grants to each one the gifts of salvation which that person longs for. “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, then he who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your own mortal bodies, through his Spirit living in you” (Rom 8:11). God had sent his Son into the world in order that through him it might be possible for us to be adopted as children of God. And the proof that we are children of God is “that God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts: the Spirit that cries “Abba, Father.” This Spirit is a Spirit of joy, of love and of service. Today’s feast marks the birthday of all of us as Christians.

But we should not regard ourselves as being a step above all others. “God has chosen the weak and insignificant people of this world to confound the strong” Sacred Scripture warns (1 Cor 1:27). We are to give witness before the world to the wonders brought about in ordinary people by the healing and saving powers of the Holy Spirit. Such was the effect on the Apostles, who from being timid and fearful men – hiding in the Upper Room – became courageous and fervent proclaimers of the gospel. Their reaction was like that of the reluctant prophet, Jeremiah, who in the face of opposition said: “I will not think about the Lord; I will not speak in his name any more. But then, there seemed to be a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones. The effort to restrain it wearied me; I could not bear it” (20:9).

We see the same response to the Spirit’s urging, in the Apostles Peter and John, when they rejected the demand of the Sanhedrin authorities that they refrain from preaching in the name of Jesus. “We cannot promise to stop proclaiming what we have seen and heard,” they said (Acts 4:20). Regardless of opposition, of persecution, of the refusal of the majority of their own people to listen to them, they would remain steadfast in their newly found faith, and in their fidelity to the mission entrusted to them by Jesus Christ. The first Pentecost saw the beginning of something which would change the whole world.

We too are called to play a role in this mission of the Holy Spirit, but we must begin by allowing the Holy Spirit to change us in a special way this day. “In your goodness, Lord, give us the Holy Spirit, who alone can teach us to think and do what is right, so that we, who without you cannot exist, may live in obedience to your loving will.” We may then keep our hearts open to what the Holy Spirit is telling us, and offer ourselves daily as willing instruments for God’s plan for the salvation of the world.

Obedience and the Spirit (Jack McArdle)

Today’s gospel ties in the gift of the Spirit with obedience to Jesus. Original sin was one of disobedience, so the Spirit will be the antidote to that, in our salvation and redemption.

Obedience comes from the Latin word obedientia, which literally means to hold one’s ear against. It is a special form of listening, like the native Indian holding his ear to the ground, or someone holding a bugging device to his ear, as he listens into a conversation from some distance.

The kind of listening that is spoken of today is, in itself, a gift of the Spirit. The Spirit will remind us, will teach us, and will inspire us.

The Spirit will lead us, and guide our feet into the way of peace. In asking for our obedience, Jesus does so for our good. There is always a little voice whispering within. Sometimes it’s the human voice, sometimes the whisper of the evil one, and sometimes it is the voice of the Spirit of God. It is important to be able to discern the voices. When I have an open and generous heart, it is so much easier to recognise the voice of God’s Spirit. If my attitude is right, and if I really want to hear that voice, then I can be sure that I will hear it. “There are none so deaf as those who don’t want to hear.” When Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” we are told that he walked away, and didn’t wait for the answer.

Jesus places the Father fairly and squarely in the midst of today’s gospel. It was the Father who sent him, and it is the Father who will send the Spirit. If we listen to the message, then the Trinity, Father, Son, and Spirit will come and make their home within us. What an extraordinary promise!

My generation grew up on promises. We were always making promises to God. New Year’s Day, Ash Wednesday, every retreat, etc. It is actually part of the conversion process when I stop making promises, and begin to listen to the promises of Jesus. There is not one “maybe” or “might” in all his promises. “Heaven and earth will pass away before my word passes away.” Elizabeth said to Mary, “All these things happened to you because you believed that the promises of the Lord would be fulfilled.” Today’s gospel contains a clear and central promise. Jesus showed clearly that he had full authority over all the power of the evil one. He gave constant witness to the fact that he could subdue Satan, and rout him. Because I can be, and often am, selfish or disobedient, it would be untrue to always put the blame on Satan. Eve tried that one when she said that it was the devil made her do it! Satan does, however, rejoice, and he connives in our disobedience. Jesus gives me the authority he himself exerted, and, if I wish to remain obedient to Jesus, I must get into the habit of exercising that authority.

First Reading: Acts 2:1-11

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.

Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs-in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.”

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:3-7, 12-13

Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit. Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body-Jews or Greeks, slaves or free-and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

Gospel: John 20:19-23

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”


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