31 May 2009: Pentecost Sunday
Acts 2, 1-11; Ps 104; 1 Cor 12, 3-7, 12-13; John 15, 26-27; 16, 12-15
The early Christians did not doubt the descent of the Spirit upon them because of the manifestations of the Spirit’s gifts (1 Cor 12-14). John’s community effectively experienced this Divine presence. These gifts were discernible in the early churches of Corinth, Ephesus, Galatia, Antioch, Jerusalem, etc. The gifts of the Holy Spirit were given to all those who believed and were baptized (Acts 2, 38; Gal 4, 6; Rom 5,5). Richard McBrien said in his book, Catholicism: “Pentecost was the moment when the Church was specifically endowed with the power from on high (Luke 24, 49; Acts of the Apostles 1, 18).” These gifts were effective in creating and forming communities, united in their common love for Jesus.
First, the Holy Spirit gives us the ability to proclaim God’s word and discern His will in the world today. Jesus in the Gospel says, “When he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth… He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.” As the Spirit of Truth, he will be the constant guide of the disciples and the disciples in the future. He will “speak” what He “hears” from Jesus, who in turn, receives it from the Father. Thus, the Paraclete functions simultaneously with the “eternal” and the now. And He speaks through the community. Let me explain. Cloning, genetic engineering, and global warming were not issues during the time of Jesus. To respond to these issues now, the Church gathers data, consults experts and discerns what Jesus will do if He were physical here. The ability to know how to face these issues comes from the power of the Holy Spirit speaking through the community of experts from different scientific and religious fields. Because we received the Spirit in baptism, the Spirit guides us in making decisions about modern issues not found in Scripture. Every teaching from the Magisterium of the Church, have been thoroughly studied, discerned and prayed over. The same thing with our personal lives: when we are thinking about our particular vocations or grappling over family issues, we can invoke the Spirit to guide and show us the way.
Second, the Holy Spirit makes us a community amidst the diversity of its members. In the Acts of the Apostles, Luke describes the descent of the Holy Spirit as tongues of fire that filled the apostles with courage to proclaim the Good News. They “began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.” And thus, those who heard them spoke where astounded because each one heard them speaking in his or her own language. All the disciples spoke about the “mighty acts of God.” In other words, the Spirit enabled people of different cultures and communities to be one. The Spirit’s gift was unity in diversity. There were differences among the Jewish-Christian communities such as the original Jerusalem community, the Jewish-Hellenistic churches in Antioch in Syria, and the Hellenistic-Gentile church in Corinth. But despite their differences, these communities shared the faith in Jesus as Messiah and Lord, the practice of Baptism and the celebration of the Eucharist, the apostolic preaching and instruction, the high regard for communal love, and the expectation of the Kingdom of God. These common elements are the things that also unite us and inspire us to form a global community doing the will of God on earth. The effect of this unity is peace. Jesus said to the disciples then and now, “Take courage, the glorified Jesus has already overcome the world” (v. 33).
We are challenged as a living Church to be inclusive, respectful and friendly to those who are different from us whether by belief, culture, or ideology. This is not the time to be divisive; not the time to be at odds with each other like countries at war. Pentecost makes God’s will clear for us today: that we, as a Church, should foster unity through dialogue. So that understanding the differences of people, we will be able to respect distinction, promote justice and equality, and more importantly focus on the values we share as a global community.