Pentecost Sunday – May 23, 2021
Listen again to the words of Saint Paul from his first letter to the Church at Corinth, proclaimed in today’s second reading, “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service, but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.” … Unity amid the diversity of our lives, through the power of the Holy Spirit poured forth upon the Church on Pentecost.
I don’t know that there exist more hopeful yet more challenging words for us, who claim for ourselves the name Christian than these words of the Apostle Paul. We are all different, to be certain, yet bound together in unity from the very beginnings of the Church by one and the same Holy Spirit of God.
In his reflections on the great feast of Pentecost last year Pope Francis reminds us that through the indwelling of the Spirit we become “God’s beloved children; all equal in this respect, and yet all different. The Spirit comes to us, in our differences and difficulties, to tell us that we have one Lord – Jesus – and one Father, and that for this reason we are brothers and sisters!”
What an incredible starting point for us to reflect upon as we find ourselves on the threshold of new birth, slowly emerging from a year of pain and challenge – a year that has reminded us time and again that we are ultimately not in control of our lives – a year that has taught us that despite our beliefs and assertions otherwise, that responsibility belongs to God – the same God who has walked with us during days of uncertainty and carried us in the midst of suffering and grief.
Listen again to Pope Francis as he continues to reflect upon the challenges of our human condition and the hope poured forth into our hearts through the Spirit of God. “Let us begin anew from here; let us look at the Church with the eyes of the Spirit and not as the world does. The world sees us only as on the right or left, with one ideology or the other; the Spirit sees us as sons and daughters of the Father and brothers and sisters of Jesus. … A worldly gaze sees structures to be made more efficient; a spiritual gaze sees brothers and sisters pleading for mercy. The Spirit loves us and knows everyone’s place in the grand scheme of things: for him, we are not bits of confetti blown about by the wind, rather we are irreplaceable fragments in his great mosaic of life.”
Our scriptures today set the stage for the coming of the Spirit and for this great plan of God to unfold. Before the Pentecost event, there was no Church. No sacraments. No preaching. There was just Mary, the mother of Jesus, and a motley crew of cowering men, gathered together. These followers of Jesus had experienced him raised from the dead and ascend into the heavens. But something was missing. They were still uncertain of what to do. They were afraid, most of all, that what had happened to Jesus on the cross was going to happen to them.
Look at the apostles for just a moment in order to capture the magnitude of God’s plan. Some of them were fishermen. One, Matthew, was an educated tax collector. They were from different backgrounds and social contexts. Many were quiet, hardworking individuals. Others were bold and forward in nature. Peter was impetuous. They were all different.
Yet, Saint John, in his gospel, tells us that Jesus appeared in the midst of his disciples and breathed the new life of the Spirit of God upon them. “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” While their personalities and temperaments remained the same, in “breathing” the Holy Spirit upon them, the lives and the hearts of Jesus’ disciples were changed. A frightened band of followers of a rabbi from Nazareth became the Church – a united, emboldened group of disciples, sent forth as the living, breathing presence of Jesus in the world.
Brothers and sisters, today’s great feast of Pentecost celebrates the plan of God that enables us to acknowledge the diversity of our lives, to live our faith and to walk together in unity as witnesses of Jesus’ life. The fruits of today’s feast empower us to love unconditionally, to serve, and to embrace the mission of the Church. Pray with me as we call forth the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Confirmation that God will fill the hearts of Amy Albarran-Santos, Paulina Gonzalez and Liam O’Malley with his love, transforming them and us so that we are able to embrace God’s will and bring God’s life and love to our broken world.
Brothers and sisters, God has spoken mightily to us in this past year. He has spoken to us about life and the true and lasting treasures that have been given to us through faith. I pray that we have listened carefully enough to set aside all that divides us and to go forth during these days – filled with the power of the Spirit of God – to proclaim the truth of Jesus – to walk together as brothers and sisters – and to live his message of love, mercy, forgiveness and peace to all. …
As we began these reflections with words from Saint Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, so too, we conclude them, “As a body is one though it has many parts … so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” – the one body of Christ!