Feast of Pentecost
On this joyful day of the feast of Pentecost, we commemorate the birth of the Church as a living and witnessing body of Christ. On Ascension day, just before he was taken up, Jesus had promised You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8). Just as Adam’s side was pierced and Eve was drawn out the Church drawn out of the pierced side of Christ became vivified with the life and mission of Christ when the promised Spirit was breathed into her. That is the event we celebrate today in the liturgy
Today’s gospel, tells us that Jesus breathed on the community of his disciples), and said …Receive the Holy Spirit… The action of Jesus recalls Genesis 2:7, where God breathed on the first man and gave him life; just as Adam s life comes from God, so now the disciple’s new spiritual life comes from Jesus’ breath. The community is the proper receiver of the spirit of Jesus. The report of the Pentecostal event in the first reading amplifies this act of Jesus breathing the Holy Spirit on his disciples. The Charismatic experience of the first Christian community receiving the spirit is characterized by a noise from the sky like a strong wind and each individual within this community receiving a share of the spirit in the form of a tongue “as of fire” as well as the gift of tongues. Everyone in the community was given the spirit, but to no one outside of it. The Spirit is a gift given to the community and only within the framework of the believing community each member receives the Spirit.
On 26th May 2014 Pope Francis was in the Upper Room during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land. These are his words: It is a great gift that the Lord has given by bringing us together here in the Upper Room for the celebration of the Eucharist. Here, where Jesus shared the Last Supper with the apostles; where, after his resurrection, he appeared in their midst; where the Holy Spirit descended with power upon Mary and the disciples. Here the Church was born, and was born to go forth. From here she set out, with the broken bread in her hands, the wounds of Christ before her eyes, and the Spirit of love in her heart.
In the Upper Room, the risen Jesus, sent by the Father, bestowed upon the apostles his own Spirit and with this power he sent them forth to renew the face of the earth (cf. Ps 104:30). To go forth, to set out, does not mean to forget. The Church, in her going forth, preserves the memory of what took place here; the Spirit, the Paraclete, reminds her of every word and action that reveals their true meaning.
The Upper Room speaks to us of service, of Jesus giving the disciples an example by washing their feet. Washing one another’s feet signifies welcoming, accepting, loving and serving one another. It means serving the poor, the sick and the outcast.
The Upper Room reminds us, through the Eucharist, of sacrifice. In every Eucharistic celebration Jesus offers himself for us to the Father, so that we too can be united with him, offering to God our lives, our work, our joys and our sorrows… offering everything as a spiritual sacrifice.
The Upper Room reminds us of friendship. “No longer do I call you servants – Jesus said to the Twelve – but I have called you friends” (Jn 15:15). The Lord makes us his friends, he reveals God’s will to us and he gives us his very self. This is the most beautiful part of being a Christian and, especially of being a priest: becoming a friend of the Lord Jesus.
The Upper Room reminds us of the Teacher’s farewell and his promise to return to his friends: “When I go… I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (Jn 14:3) Jesus does not leave us, nor does he ever abandon us; he precedes us to the house of the Father, where he desires to bring us as well.
The Upper Room; however, also reminds us of pettiness of curiosity – “Who is the traitor” and of betrayal? We ourselves, and not just others, can reawaken those attitudes whenever we look at our brother or sister with contempt, whenever we judge them, whenever by our sins we betray Jesus.
The Upper Room reminds us of sharing, fraternity, harmony and peace among ourselves. How much love and goodness has flowed from the Upper Room! How much charity has gone forth from here? It is like a river from its source, beginning as a stream and then expanding and becoming a great torrent. All the saints drew from this source; and hence the great river of the Church’s holiness continues to flow: from the Heart of Christ, from the Eucharist and from the Holy Spirit.
Lastly, the Upper Room reminds us of the birth of the new family, the Church established by the risen Jesus; a family that has a Mother, the Virgin Mary. Christian families belong to this great family, and in it they find the light and strength to press on and be renewed, amid the challenges and difficulties of life. All God’s children, of every people and language, are invited and called to be part of this great family, as brothers and sisters and sons and daughters of the one Father in heaven. These horizons are opened up by the Upper Room; the horizons of the Risen Lord and his Church. From here the Church goes forth, impelled by the life-giving breath of the Spirit. Gathered in prayer with the Mother of Jesus; the Church lives in constant expectation of a renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Send forth your Spirit, Lord, and renew the face of the earth (cf. Ps 104:30)!
The first task of the Spirit is to be with us always (Jn. 14:15). St. Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit dwells in our body as in a temple (1 Cor. 6:19). Henceforth we are never alone; always accompanied by the presence of the Spirit deep with in us. In lonely moments of life to recognize and turn to this divine presence can be immensely comforting. In the last analysis there is no human relationship, however intimate and enduring it might be, that can once for all soothe our aching heart. St. Augustine immortalized both the ache and the balm in the words, our hearts are made for you O God; and they are restless until they rest in you.
Secondly the Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as Paraclete, which has a range of meaning as the one who exhorts, the one who comforts, the one who helps and the one who makes appeals on our behalf. For those who make their hearts raw to feel the breath of the Spirit these helps are always available when they are most on need.
Thirdly, the Paraclete will testify to Jesus (Jn. 15:26) and teach us everything and remind us of all that Jesus has told us (Jn. 14:26). He will convince us of the true nature of sin not simply as external evil actions we do but as a spiritual condition we suffer from because we give our hearts to be ruled by the powers of this world and not by Jesus (Jn. 16:9). He will convince us of what true righteousness is that is, all that Jesus stood for in his life, rejected and condemned by this world climaxed in his crucifixion, but vindicated by God as indicated by his return to the Father (Jn. 16:10). Think for a moment the suffering and darkness in the heart of those who are anxious about the uncertainties of tomorrow and cannot trust in God those who wallow in resentment and anger and cannot forgive, those who fear death because they cannot believe in the resurrection. These are the concrete experiences of condemnation.
Fourthly, the Paraclete as the Spirit of truth will guide us into all truth (Jn. 16:13); into that truth of God, which will set us truly free (Jn. 8:32).
Fifthly St. Paul tells us that when we let the Spirit have his way in us, he would generate the following fruits: …love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. In addition, as Jesus words in todays gospel announces, the immediate effect of the Spirit in the community is the experience of forgiveness and the peace that flows from it. In a heart where hurt, anger, resentment and vindictiveness ferment so much emotional noise the silent work of the Spirit may never be felt.