Saturday, May 30, 2009

Birthday Spirit—A Reflection on Pentecost Sunday

Happy Birthday to Us! Pentecost has been called the birthday of the Church. The disciples of Jesus had been gathered together in prayer for 9 days since the Ascension. There were about 120 of them. Luke names the Eleven Apostles, Judas’ successor, Matthias, and “Mary, the mother of Jesus.”

Imagine being there. You’ve seen or been told that Jesus has returned to the Father in Heaven. He told you that “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses…” You’re not sure what this Holy Spirit is and you’re a little nervous about being a witness. So you pray with the others. And you wait. For 9 days. It’s becoming a little routine. The feast of Pentecost is coming. What began as a feast celebration the first fruits of the spring harvest had also become a commemoration of the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai.

Suddenly, as Luke says, suddenly there is the sound of a strong driving wind. It shatters the quiet of your prayer. As you look around trying to see the source of the wind, you see a fire above you in the room. First wind, now fire. It is strange and frightening. As you watch, the fire divides into smaller flames. The flames come to rest on each of you. Luke calls what is happening being “filled with the Holy Spirit.”

What happens next is perhaps the strangest of all. You hear yourself and your brothers and sisters speaking in different languages. Those who have made the journey to Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost hear the commotion and gather outside the house where you are; the same house where Jesus celebrated Passover with the Apostles. They hear you speaking in their native tongues.

In a moment the disciples went from hiding and praying privately to a very public preaching of the Gospel. This was brought about by the Holy Spirit, sent by Jesus from the Father as promised. It is a blazing beginning, a firey birth of the Body of Christ.

The Holy Spirit has come. The Church is alive. The harvest has begun. But what happens now? Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit gives gifts to the Church. This unites the Church. We need each other. The gifts are given to each for the benefit of all. The Holy Spirit also gives us the strength to fight against sin. He nurtures us not only with gifts, but with the first fruit of the Spirit; the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control that nourish us to make us strong against sin.

Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit not only to bring the Church into being, but to lead and guide us. He will remind us of what Jesus taught us. As the Spirit of Truth, he will lead us into the Truth. He will lead us to Jesus.

If you want to know Jesus, you do so through the Holy Spirit. He will give you the power to live as Jesus did. He will give you the strength to suffer for the sake of the gospel and to be a witness to Jesus Christ. If you want to be like Jesus, pray that he will send the Holy Spirit into your life. Don’t worry about what others will think. Let’s imitate the early Church and, in obedience to Christ, gather in prayer and pray for a new Pentecost, a re-birth of the Church in the Holy Spirit.

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