A Cycle – Feast of Pentecost 20
Jn. 20: 19 – 23
Pentecost is a major feast day in the Church, yet it’s importance to us has been underplayed, ignored, or just relegated to an ordinary event marking the birth of the church. I am convinced this feast is ignored because we have not been taught the importance of the role of the Spirit in our quest for holiness. The Spirit’s role is multifaceted, and its initial quest is to reveal to us the truth about sin and forgiveness. Once we feel forgiveness we are changed, transformed into sons and daughters. Yes, just as the disciples were changed, we too will be changed.
The coming of Jesus, his life death and resurrection were monumental in that the penalty of our sins was placed on Jesus. But God had more in store for us than just our salvation. He had restoration in mind. Restoring the intimacy God intended when he created us in his image and likeness. To make that happen God promised to send us the Spirit. Jesus in that upper room stressed the importance of the Spirit when he said, “it is to your advantage that I go, for if I go I will send the Spirit to you…he will guide you to all truth” (Jn. 16. 7, 13).
Just before his ascension Jesus told the disciples to wait in the city for, he was going to send to them the “promise of the Father.” God’s plan to restore our position as sons and daughters, his plan to reconcile us to himself involved Jesus as savior and the Spirit as teacher, comforter and revealer sent to embolden us to become witnesses of God’s love. But before we can become witnesses, we need to have a complete change of direction and seek what the disciples sought as they prayed that day in the upper room awaiting the promise of the Father.
The change God desires in our hearts cannot come through our efforts to become holy men and women but is accomplished by the transforming power of the Spirit by our seeking and surrendering to the action of the Spirit. I will speak about this surrender process later but before we get there, we must first understand our need to allow the Spirit to change us.
The promise of the Father, mentioned by Jesus, was made through Jeremiah the prophet and it was given to us as a covenant – a pact, a contract, a pledge, a guarantee, a commitment given to us by God. In that covenant God said we will know him; we will have our hearts changed and He will forgive and forget our sins (Jer. 31. 33-34). That was the promise and through the Prophet Ezekiel, God tells us the promise would be accomplished by the action of the Holy Spirit as it is poured into our hearts (Ez. 36.26). Then as we heard in our first reading, Peter refers to the Prophecy of Joel where God promised the Spirit would be poured out on every one of us (Joel 3). This coming of the Spirit to us has a significance beyond the birth of the church. The gift of the Spirit to us is God’s plan to evangelize the world through fervent, energized believers.
This feast day is the final piece to overcome sin in our lives. The Spirit equips us to live righteous lives won for us by Jesus Christ. The Spirit will open our minds to understand and feel forgiveness instead of condemnation. We will understand what Paul meant when he said “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Yet today, in 99% of the churches worldwide the homilies will proclaim today is the birth of the church. This is not incorrect, but it is a look backward at history instead of forward to the promise of the Father in our lives. Today is a promise of our rebirth. It is all about the promise of the Father to set our hearts on fire as it did the disciples that day. What they did on Pentecost is our history, but Pentecost was designed by God to be a perpetual event, occurring daily as hearts are set on fire by the Spirit’s action.
Let me refresh your memory for just minutes ago we heard the alleluia verse sung before the gospel was read. It said, “Come Holy Spirit, fill our hearts and enkindle within us the fire of your love.” We so easily recite those words or listen to them said for us and yet we fail to act beyond hearing. It is a prayer of invitation saying, come into my heart and change me. Most of us as we hear those words have not even connected that prayer with ourselves. We have become those people in the scriptures; those who are waiting for the Lord, but we are not paying attention when he comes.
In addition to the alleluia, just before the gospel was read, we heard the sequence read or perhaps in many churches it was sung. It like the alleluia is a prayer we are offering to God. Listen to what we are praying for the Spirit to do within us and I am going to paraphrase it.
Come Holy Spirit come into our hearts and take up your rest. Come for you are the source of all we seek and need, you refresh our souls and shine within us. Amid all our woes you are our source of strength. Fill us with the light of God’s love and shine in those places where we have not allowed God in. There is an emptiness within all of us which aches to be filled. There is fear within us that longs for peace. We ask for you to reveal our actions which are like the older brother of the prodigal. Flood us with the gentle touch of the Spirit like morning dew. Satisfy our thirst by giving us the living water you said would flow out of your very heart to us. Did you have your heart engaged when the Sequence was read? Were you praying as the disciples prayed for those very things as they waited for the Spirit to come?
Most likely you, like many did not hear or take to heart any of that prayer. Like Paul we find ourselves doing the things we should not do and avoiding the things you called us to do. Our guilt holds us hostage, separating us from God. He has promised to wash away our guilt and through the action of the Spirit have us feel the arms of a loving Father.
Come Holy Spirit for in you is the source of all joy, in you is the source of feeling the love of God and providing us with the courage to live our salvation as witnesses.
Is today the day of your rebirth? If you have not invited the Spirit to come into your heart, why not? Today after all is a reminder of the promise of God made to you for you to become who he created you to be. Come Holy Spirit Come.