Day of Pentecost

(Acts 2:1-21; Ps 104;25-35, 37 1 Cor 12: 3a-13; Jn 20:19-23)

June 8, 2014

I said last Sunday that the way Jesus is present in the Church is through the presence of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is not among us the way he was among the first disciples when in ministered in Galilee and Judea. He is not among us in the way in which he appeared to the disciples in the forty days after the resurrection. He has ascended into heaven, as he said he would. He is among us through the presence of the Comforter, the Counselor, the Spirit of Truth.

The Holy Spirit rested upon the first disciples on the Day of Pentecost, as we hear in the reading from Acts. He was manifested as tongues of fire over the Apostles’ heads and they spoke languages that day that none of them knew. There are sometimes these great manifestations of the Spirit, with gifts of prophesy, of healing, of signs of God’s presence. These manifestations are to be desired but they are never for the sake of themselves but for some deeper purpose. They infuse a sense of God’s presence, of God’s love. They infuse in us a love for God. Sometimes, as on the Day of Pentecost, they are for purposes of communication. The languages the Apostles spoke were not so that they could show off linguistic ability but so they could communicate with the foreigners who had gathered that day around them. The gift of tongues that day was a great sign of the unity of humanity, that people of different languages and cultures can be unified in truth and love under God. Just as the Tower of Babel failed because it was a city where man was the center, Pentecost succeeds because God is the center of the experience. A human race unified without God is a people in sin. A human race unified in God is a new creation in Christ. On the Day of Pentecost we get a glimpse of that new creation.

Before the Day of Pentecost, the Apostles were just a band of disciples; after Pentecost, they were a Church. Hence the story of Pentecost begins the Book of Acts. We need to all become Pentecostals. I don’t mean we all need to join Pentecostal denominations: I mean we need to be renewed in the Spirit; we need to be people of the Spirit. We need to be people who born again, born of the Spirit, people who have experienced the work of Christ in our hearts, who are committed in faith and action to Christ, as we promised in baptism. We need to live the promises and the gifts of our baptism. That is what five of our young people are committing to do next week at their Confirmation. That is what several adults are committing to do by re-affirming the promises they made at Baptism and Confirmation. These are acts of renewal, allowing ourselves to be renewed in faith by the power of the Holy Spirit and in these cases with the apostolic rite of the Laying on of Hands.

The Church needs renewal. The Church is not simply the clergy. It is not our building --- the Church is the community of faith created by the action and power of the Holy Spirit. That is what we see in the Book of Acts and in the Letters of the New Testament, in Jerusalem, in Corinth, in Ephesus, in Rome, in Galatia. There is no Church apart from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in people, in you and me. There is no church in the world apart from people with Christ living in them and acting in his name.

We have seen a horrible event unfold in Moncton this past week, a tragedy which did not need to be. Over and over again, we see the same kind of story being told, often involving young people without criminal pasts. We need to be very troubled by it. What kind of spirit is taking root in the hearts of many people, that they are so disillusioned, so angry, so confused, so full of hate that they want to hurt or destroy someone? THERE ARE CAUSES BUT THERE ARE NO EXCUSES FOR THESE ACTIONS. Let’s be clear: anger, hatred, rebellion and anti-authority attitudes, and murder come not only from the heart of man, but from the heart of sin and they leave in their wake tragedy and destruction. We want to label these things as mental illness and emotional instability and there is no doubt that our society is afflicted by mental illness and psychological disorders, but there is more at work here. We are trying to create a society without God, and a society without God is a society falling into chaos. It is the Tower of Babel and the center cannot hold. That is what we see throughout so much of our society and in so many individual lives – the center is not holding.

We need a renewal of the Church through the power of the Holy Spirit, a new Pentecost and we need that renewal to sweep beyond the doors of the Church into society, teaching and informing people’s conscience. We need to inform our conscience; we need to listen to our conscience – we cannot be swept about by every passion or feeling that enters our souls – that is chaos. And if we are full of anger and bitterness, rebellion, rage and hatred, we need to seek help from God and from other human beings. Paul writes to the Galatians: “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. If we live by the Spirit, let us walk by the Spirit.” Let us walk by the Spirit.

Everyone has to ask himself: “What kind of Spirit is indwelling in me?” WHAT KIND OF SPIRIT IS INDWELLING IN YOU?

Fr. Brian Spence