Solemnity of Pentecost. June 8th 2014
Acts 2:1-11; 1Cor 12:3-7,12-13; Jn 20:19-23
Being sent like Jesus.
“As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
When I went shopping for a new cell phone some months ago, a sales agent tried selling me a particular phone. With great excitement, he said to me, “Father, this phone is hot in the market and I completely recommend it. With this phone, you can block the numbers of those who you do not want to disturb you. Their calls to you will never get through and their text messages will go right into your spam box.” Though I decided to pass on his offer, I must confess that he got my attention with that advertising pitch. He almost got me to buy a phone whose most attractive feature was blocking out unwanted callers.
Wouldn’t life be a little bit more peaceful if we could just block out a few undesirable people in our lives? Maybe we are used to blocking others out of our lives. Maybe we have already blocked many of them from our social media. But do we realize what we are missing out when we choose to block people out of our lives?
In today’s Gospel passage, before breathing the Holy Spirit forth on His disciples, the risen Christ says to them, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” How was Jesus sent by the Father? Jesus tells us that He is the one whom “the Father consecrated and sent into the world.” (Jn 10:36) He was consecrated by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the moment of His conception. What did Jesus do with this Holy Spirit that He possessed in its fullness? This Spirit was not for Him but for all of us. By the Holy Spirit, we all find in Jesus Christ complete and unhindered access to the Father. Jesus made this clear in these words, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.”(Lk 4:18)
Throughout His earthly life, Jesus remained a man of deep peace not just because He possessed the Spirit in its plenitude within Him but also because He became for all who came to Him complete access to the Father. In Him we all find forgiveness for sins, a sharing in the divine life, a participation in His divine sonship, a participation in His graces, merits and virtues, and the full truth about God. In Him we become children of God and heirs of heaven. He came that we might have life and have it abundantly. He never blocked any one away from this access to God. Even in the throes of His death pangs on the Cross, He granted the repentant thief complete and immediate access to the Father when He said to him, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.”
“As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Jesus grants us the same Holy Spirit too so that we too can provide for others access to the Father no matter what we face in this life and thus know His deep and abiding peace. The disciples received the Holy Spirit in today’s Gospel passage so that they may become channels through which others will receive divine mercy and be reconciled to God: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” The disciples will no longer live behind closed doors “in fear of the Jews” if they enjoyed the peace that comes from receiving the Holy Spirit and become channels of communion between God and others. In the Church as a whole and in their individual lives, the disciples, and we after them, will be people of peace as long as others find access to God through contact with us all.
The Acts of the Apostles shows us St. Luke’s version of the Pentecost event. The Spirit fills the disciples with the gift of tongues so that they begin to proclaim the “mighty acts of God” in different languages. The Spirit’s gift of tongues was not for them alone but was given to them so that the “devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem” could hear about God’s mighty deeds in Jesus Christ for the very first time in their native language. They are drawn to the Spirit-filled disciples, listened to the words of St. Peter and about three thousand of them become the first converts to Christianity.
Let us reflect on the words of St. Paul to the warring Corinthians in today’s Second Reading, “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.” The Spirit is not giving for egotistic quarreling and fighting. Neither is it given to make some people elite Christians among inferiors. But this Spirit is given to build up others in their own relationship with God. The Christian enjoys peace not just by reception of the Holy Spirit but being faithful channels of communion between God and others.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the Holy Spirit filled our souls at the moment of Baptism, we were further fortified with His presence in Confirmation. Every sacramental encounter also bestows on us an outpouring of the Spirit. Why then do we lack peace in our hearts? Why then do we live in fear and worry? Why then do we let anger conquer our hearts and allow resentment and bitterness prevail in our relationships? Receiving the Holy Spirit is not enough to guarantee us peace. We must first reject that temptation to block others away from us for whatever reason. How can we do this?
Reflecting on the offer that I received to buy a cell phone that could block many away, I pondered, “Why did I receive the Holy Spirit in the first place in my priestly ordination? Was it so that I could block people out of my life?” Maybe we need to remind ourselves often why we continuously receive the Holy Spirit, what this Spirit wants to do in us and the peace that we forfeit when we succumb to the temptation to block others away from us. These reflections may help us choose to provide for others that path to God that has loved us so much to dwell within us. If we reflect to all people the divine forgiveness, generosity, hope, patience, and gentleness that the Spirit brings to us, we shall surely have a peace that is not conditioned on earthly situations but rooted in the Spirit’s active presence within and our willingness to serve as His own channel of grace to others.
This Pentecost Sunday, let us turn to Mary, Queen of Peace. Jesus was conceived in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit. She knows better than any of us humans how powerful the Spirit can be in our lives. She did not have peace just because she received an intense outpouring of the Spirit. She is indeed Queen of Peace because she was ready to go to whatever extent to bring us to God within her. In haste she went to visit Elizabeth, providing her relative with access to the God-Man who dwelt in her womb. Through Mary, Elizabeth realized that God was so close to her, in the womb of her little relative before her: “Who am I that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?” Elizabeth’s contact with God redounded to Mary’s growing peace. May Mother Mary help us to follow her footsteps and enjoy that peace that Jesus Christ offers to us in His Spirit.
“As the Father has sent me, so I send you. Receive the Holy Spirit.” We receive the Holy Spirit again at this Mass this Pentecost Sunday. Deep abiding peace will be ours in this troubled world if we do not block others from us but let them find in us complete access to the God who love us so much to dwell within us.
A blessed and Peaceful Pentecost to you all!
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!