Psalm 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34
1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13
Our Easter Season draws to a close today with our celebration of Pentecost but we should never think of Pentecost as simply an end to Easter. Pentecost is an “event” in our church. It is often referred to as the “birth of the church.”
Why call it the birth of the Church? It is the day that the disciples first received the Holy Spirit that empowered and invigorated them to them to go out and proclaim the good news.
The first time the Holy Spirit descended upon disciples was marked with vivid imagery. The Holy Spirit arrived as a “strong driving wind.” The use of the word “strong” symbolizes the awesome power of God. The “wind” reminds of how God “breathed” life into Adam (Genesis 2:7). God gives us life and the Holy Spirit brings us eternal life.
Continuing with the symbolism, the Holy Spirit came down upon the disciples as “tongues of fire.” Fire is used as image of God’s divine presence such as in the story of the burning bush (Exodus chapter 3) and the column of fire that led the Israelites out of Egypt into the desert (Exodus 13:21-22).
I’ll add here that sometimes that we use the expression “they’re on fire” as a way of saying a person is filled with excitement and passion. That’s what happens to the disciples when they receive the Holy Spirit. They become “on fire” to proclaim the gospel.
The symbolism of the tongues is also important to us. Language can be a barrier to people coming together. The Holy Spirit transcends that by enabling each person is able to hear the disciples speak in their own language at Pentecost. Our faith is not just for the Israelites or those of white European descent. The gospel is for all whether it be Hispanics and Latinos, Africans, Asian, South Americans, or the whites. God’s love and mercy transcends language, geography, and ethnicity. God’s love and mercy is for each and every person.
In our psalm response today, we sing, “Lord, send out your Spirit and renew the face of the earth.” The Holy Spirit renewed the disciples with a new and powerful mission. In our baptism we receive the Holy Spirit and we are sealed with it in Confirmation. The Holy Spirit gives us gifts to empower us to proclaim Jesus to the world.
Now, as Paul writes to the Corinthians, the Holy Spirit gives us “different kinds of spiritual gifts” for “difference forms of services.” Paul speaks of how the body is one but has many parts.
In Baptism we become part of the Body of Christ. Through the Holy Spirit we are united as one but we are not all the same and are not all called to do the same function. Our hands do a different role than our feet. Our eyes do a different role than our ears but using them all together we accomplish far more than any one part of the body can do on its own.
You might remember a couple of weeks ago when I talked about how we have different roles at Mass that people help with. We have altar servers and musicians, readers and Extraordinary Ministries of Holy Communion just to name some. As we go out into the world, we need to work together.
This can be a challenge for us. We can be afraid of what lies ahead of us. In that fear we turn to the Holy Spirit for the gift of “courage.”
When Jesus appeared to the disciples in the locked room, they were afraid and he said to them “Peace be with you.” When we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit, the Spirit bears fruits in us. One of those fruits is peace. Having the Holy Spirit helps us to see what is truly important and to trust in God. This brings us peace.
This change is the Holy Spirit giving us real life. This change is the Holy Spirit renewing us of us. The renewal comes not just at Baptism or Confirmation. The Holy Spirit can renew us each time we seek God’s forgiveness and gives us the mercy to start anew.