Courage, Kindness, Understanding

05-29-2020Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday, a very important Feast Day in our Church Faith and Tradition. The gospel account of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles is a great symbol of how the Holy Spirit will open wide the horizons of our minds and hearts. The power of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, is unequaled in power in everyone's life.

We know that, if you wish to live, you must breathe. Indeed, Jesus breathes on his Apostles to give them new life on Easter evening. God, in the Creation Story in the Book of Genesis, breathed life into the first human being. We all constantly breathe in and out. On Easter night, in breathing on the Apostles with the breath of life, Jesus gives them the gifts of peace and forgiveness. He also sends them forth to take on the arduous and necessary work of forgiveness. Jesus sends them forth as he was sent forth to us from the Father and Jesus also gives them his role and mission of forgiveness and unity.

We read a description of the arrival of the Holy Spirit: it is the noise of a great wind and the dancing and flashing of little flames, also with the presence of a dove. The apostles are dramatically affected by all of this. They become courageous and unafraid. They speak out in their native tongue, but are understood by all. The symbolism of the naming of the peoples of the nations gathered in Jerusalem is to mean that their words are to reach the ends of the earth. We are all included. People everywhere will be able to understand the Gospel. In fact, it is clear that people have been waiting for this "good news", although they did not realize it.

On this Pentecost day, we hear two versions of the arrival of the Holy Spirit. They are clearly contrasting: loud and spectacular or quiet and resolute. Our passage from Paul shows that unity and forgiveness are not always accepted and lived. Some of the members of the faith community are quite taken by the occasional occurrence of the more sparkling gifts of the Spirit; for example, speaking in tongues. Paul does not say these are less in value of the manifestations of the Holy Spirit, but he informs us that they are gifts and services for the benefit of everyone. Paul continues his thoughts and expressions and creates the most beautiful passage, which we now label as Chapter 13. Most of us are able to recite the words: "If I speak in human tongues and angelic as well, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong, a clanging cymbal."

These verses of Paul remind us of how we are to go forth — much like the apostles — to preach and live forgiveness and unity. This passage of Paul shows us how the descent of the Holy Spirit can empower us each day to live our Catholic Way of Life with courage, strength, dignity, kindness, and understanding.