(For an introduction to this series, click here. Also, please note that to avoid possible negative consequences, names of preachers and parishes will not be disclosed in this series.)
Pentecost was originally an Old Testament festival celebrating the `first fruits of the spring harvest – the gifts of the Earth. By the early New Testament it had gradually lost its association with the gifts of the Earth and became a celebration of God's creation of the Jews and their religious history. By the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE it focused exclusively on God's gift of Torah on Mt. Sinai.
Today, in our readings, the emphasis is on an empowerment through the Holy Spirit that enabled the early disciples, and now enables us, to live out the message of Jesus. The Hebrew word for Spirit also means breath and wind. I can imagine the men and women huddled in fear in the upper room on the evening of that first day of the week. What was going to happen to them? What were they going to do now? Perhaps as the Spirit was breathed on them they began to sense the gifts of the Spirit: strength, wisdom and comfort. Maybe one of them said something realistically hopeful. Hope that sprang from a strong belief in the message that Jesus, the Prophet, had preached: love, forgiveness, and taking care of others for the common good. Maybe the Spirit inspired the group of followers to say "Yes, we can!".
Yes! We can live in faith and not fear. Yes! We can reach out to others with love and non-violence. Yes We can pray together. Individuals may have found new awareness of their gifts for the common good. Maybe someone tentatively said we can meet and pray at my house. Someone else may have said I can make the bread. Others might have said: "I can bring the wine." "I can make music." "I can teach the children." "I can spread the word among those who haven't heard about us."
If any of this sounds familiar it is! We too are called to recognize our gifts and use them in community. As a member of the council [of this Catholic faith community] I've had the privilege of being keenly aware of the gifts of this community. The involvement of all in the broader community is remarkable. I counted 94 different organizations listed by individuals on their registration forms. From school rooms to board rooms; from local to national government, from the streets of the city to the open space of the country we are living out the Gospel of Jesus in the service and justice work we are doing. I can only believe that the Spirit of God inspires us in mysterious and ordinary ways.
In this immediate community there are innumerable tasks that need to be done, thoughts that need to be thought, emotions that need to be supported, money that needs to be contributed, and prayers that need to be prayed for us to thrive. And we are doing it! We are one body with many parts! We come together in prayer that fortifies us for the following week: A week that requires us to try to live out the message of Jesus to love one another, to care for the vulnerable and to work for justice. A week during which the Holy Spirit loves us and will never let us go.