Monday, May 20, 2013

The Gift of the Holy Spirit

Pentecost Sunday
May 19, 2013

                    Acts 2:1-11 

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs,
yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.”

The reading from Acts sets the tone for today’s celebration. Luke tells how the Church’s universal mission was inaugurated, in the power of the Holy Spirit, as faithful Jews gathered for their Pentecost festival, fifty days after the Passover celebration. Luke was conscious of his task of telling the world what had really happened – as he makes clear in introducing each of his two works. He faced a great challenge, however, as he set out to describe and interpret the vast complexity of the Church’s early development. He met this difficulty by choosing several events that were turning points in the Church’s history, and presenting them in a dramatic way that made clear their profound significance – a device used by other writers of the day. 

Luke’s story of the Church’s first Pentecost is an example of this approach. The Church’s first courageous witness, and its subsequent announcing of the Good New throughout the known world, was a remarkable fulfillment of the Savior’s promise that he would give his disciples courage and power through the gift of his own Spirit (Mk 13:9-11).

The universality of the Church’s mission is made clear. The Church’s first witness is to ‘devout people from every nation’ - in the first place to ‘Jews’, but with the mention of ‘proselytes’ among the crowd addressed the conversion of the gentiles is also anticipated. In the continuation of our passage, Peter’s sermon gives a summary of the Church’s early witness. It is in the power of the Spirit that the Church takes up its mission.

Today, before all days, the Church invites us to deepen our faith in the Savior’s gift of his own Spirit. Already in the Old Testament, ‘the Spirit of God’ was active as a life-giving force at work in creation. Anointed by the Spirit as God’s ‘Servant’, in fulfillment of the prophecies of the Book of Isaiah, Jesus has led us to know the Spirit as a Person sharing the one divine life with the Father and the Son. Today’s gospel reading is a meditation upon this shared life, and the way in which those who find faith in Christ have the Father and the Son ‘make their home’ in them. Those who have received the gift of Christ’s own Spirit will be led to known how the Savior is the source of hope for the whole world - as the Spirit ‘reminds’ them of all that Jesus said and did.. 

The Spirit is the Spirit of Christ; the Spirit is the very life principle of the Church; the Spirit dwells in each believer as our ‘paraclete’– the companion who stands by us in all our trials, providing whatever is needed to survive every trial. We live ‘in Christ’ because he has given us his own Spirit.

Writing to the Romans St Paul reminds these new converts that, together with the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit will come to ‘live in them’ – renewing their lives, as they set aside their old fears, and find joy and encouragement, as the Father’s beloved ‘children’ who are ‘coheirs with Christ’, sharing the blessings of his resurrection. 

There may be times when we wonder whether these ideals have any place in today's world. If this is so, may the celebration of this Feast renew our confidence in the fact that God does love us; that through the death and resurrection of Christ, we have been offered the opportunity for salvation; and that through the continued presence of the Holy Spirit, such ideals can become facts. 

We have so much more capacity to change the world than we realize, not because of our intelligence, not from our commitment to justice, but from the Spirit that inspires our compassion, stimulates our imaginations, and fills us with the assurance that we are truly the children of God with many rights and responsibilities. Pentecost confronts us with the reality of that Spirit of God dwelling  within us.

The implication of this actuality is too often ignored when in reality the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is central to our Christianity. Our commitment to care for the planet, environmental justice, feeding the hungry, assisting the sick, and speaking truth to the world all flow from the fact that we are the children of God. We have been given the authority to forgive sins or to retain sin because we have received the Holy Spirit (John 20:22-23).  We have been given the power to bind or loose things on earth and in heaven. We have been given the keys to the kingdom because we are the children of God (Matt 16:19). Will we embrace these realities and live into the responsibilities that they imply?  It is truly something for each one of us to think about. 

                              St. Valentine Faith Community
                                                              Mass: 10AM Every Sunday
2301 E Sunset Road
Suite 18
Las Vegas, NV 89119
702-523-8963 Rev Sue Provost, Pastor

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)

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