Throughout the Sundays of the Easter Season, the Church invites us to examine the various aspects of the death and resurrection of Jesus. The Church wants to help us explore and understand what the death and resurrection of Jesus might mean for us at this moment. How do we understand it, experience it, celebrate it, proclaim it, and live it, not just in the Church building but also in our homes, at work, when we are having fun and when we are struggling? Asking what the death and resurrection of Jesus means for us now is not a once and done event. It is an ongoing event – we do it when we are 10, 30, 50, 70 and 90…we do it until Jesus calls our name and takes us to the place he has prepared for us in heaven.
In our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, the story opens with this image of the apostles gathered in a house; they hear throughout the house the sound of a VIOLENT WIND. Not a gentle breeze or a wind – rather it is a violent wind. The storyteller continues reminding us that tongues, like fire, come to rest on them. As a result, they begin to do extraordinary things. The coming of the Holy Spirit is not a peaceful thing…it shakes up the people and it shakes up the house. The result is new life, new capabilities for all those who experience the Holy Spirit. How many people gathered here have experienced the Spirit shaking up their lives in this way?
In the Gospel reading, John gives his account of how the Holy Spirit comes to the disciples. It would seem that the group is larger than just the apostles – it includes other followers of Jesus; the ‘who’ is not clear. They are gathered and they are afraid. Jesus comes to them and twice he wishes them peace. The first time is a simple greeting of peace. The second time he greets them with peace and then he gives them a mission – he sends them as the Father has sent him. John tells us that Jesus breathed on them – giving them the Holy Spirit. Connected to the gift of the Spirit is the ability/the mission to forgive others. As we know from experience, forgiveness given, received or withheld, changes everything, the way we live and the way we die.
In our second reading, St. Paul speaks to the Corinthians about the Spirit. He tells them that the gift of, the presence of the Holy Spirit enables them to recognize Jesus as Lord of their life. Does that mean without the gift of the Spirit we cannot recognize who Jesus is? Not at all! The Spirit does shape how we see and understand Jesus.
Paul tells the Corinthians we receive the Gift of the Spirit for the common good – the good of others and not for ourselves. Paul affirms that there is one God and one Spirit blessing and gifting all of us.
So what do these readings have to teach us, gathered as our virtual community this morning?
First of all, the Spirit comes to each of us in different ways. Sometimes with a huge disruption to our life and sometimes quietly, peacefully and all things in between. In all instances the gift of the Spirit is for the good of others, to help others understand the God of Love, the God of forgiveness, the God who gives gifts. In all instances when the Spirit comes our lives are changed – something shifts within us.
If we need the gift of the Spirit to recognize Jesus then let us celebrate that gift of the Spirit as soon as possible – let us pray for the gift of the Spirit – let us recognize that we are not in charge of the Spirit – the Spirit is in charge of us.
The Spirit diminishes the power of fear and strengthens our courage. The Spirit diminishes confusion and anxiety and strengthens peace; always. If we are not at peace then we need to make room for the work of the Spirit. The gift of peace has little to do with nice, with control, with order, with easy. The gift of peace has little to do with ‘keeping things the way they have always been’. Peace is the awareness that ‘God is with us.’ Peace is not the absence of struggle.
God is at work in our world. We have to be really careful when we talk about who God is because God does not play by our rules. While we often think we know what God wants and who God is, the fact is, God surprises us. Violent wind and tongues of fire – new energy and the capacity to do things never done before, quietly, peacefully, diminishing fear and strengthening courage – bringing goodness. Our God is alive!
If you are wondering about your behavior – the things you do and whether or not God is okay with them…today’s readings give us a little test…
As we continue our prayer let us ask God for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Remember God does not play by our rules. If you pray expect that God will shake up your life – the way you do things – the way you treat people – the way you see yourself; God will do it.
Remember also that the Spirit brings forgiveness and sends us to be ‘forgivers of people’.
Finally remember the Spirit is about NEW LIFE – about GOOD NEWS! The Spirit is about news that is good for all people – not just those of us who have our lives all figured out and are perfect in every way. The Spirit challenges the self-righteous attitudes that sometimes find their way into our lives and prompts us to see that we are all sisters and brothers – even those people who see things differently than we do.
This week let the Spirit live in you!
Fr. Doug Jeffrey, OMI