From Easter to Pentecost our readings focus on the promises of Jesus to his disciples and on the first preaching of the apostles. Up until last Sunday the readings have focused on the themes of resurrection, the Eucharist and the life and way of Christ – ultimately we have discussed how we as Christians are to live on a daily basis in relationship with God and relationship with his community.
This Sunday our readings begin to prepare us for the celebration of the mission of the Church – the great event of Pentecost. Many think the Holy Spirit was not within the disciples until Pentecost. Many in fact separate and explain God as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. However, when the Son is present, the Father and the Holy Spirit are also present. When the Spirit is present, the Father and the Son are present. God is one. We all know this. We often describe God with three personalities, but God is a unified Trinitarian God.
Last week we heard the words that Jesus is “the way, the truth and the life.”
My friends, there is no life without the Creative work of the Father, there is no life without the Word and Direction of the Son, and there is no life without the Spirit – the force that gives and sustains life. The Father was in the beginning, the Son was in the beginning, and the Holy Spirit was in the beginning. God was in the beginning.
The Jewish understanding of “Spirit” is helpful for us today. In Hebrew (ruach), Greek (pneuma) and Latin (spiritus) the word for spirit suggests breathing. The idea is that when a person is breathing, he or she is alive. It is from this notion that the idea of an animating, life-giving, intelligent and active force comes.
My friends, before Christ was born as man, the Spirit of God was within humanity. This Spirit was placed within humanity when Adam and Eve were created in God’s image and likeness. Every human being has this Spirit. Some people call it the breath of life, others call it a conscience, others call it reason or intelligence, or maybe it is that little idea in our head that makes us think before we do something.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus says that he “will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you for ever.” Some think that this means that the Advocate – the Spirit, was not within humanity until Pentecost. However Jesus continues in John’s Gospel: “That Spirit of Truth… is with you, he is in you.” Jesus is saying this before he even suffered and died.
So why do we have the event of Pentecost?
The Jewish tradition taught that when the Messiah came, God’s very own life (breath, spirit and mission) would be poured out upon all the faithful. Through the event of Pentecost, the life of God becomes the life of the Christian and the life of the Church.
Today’s readings give us some idea of why the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost. The 2nd reading from the 1st letter of Peter exhorts the followers of Christ to “always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you all have. But give it with courtesy and respect and with a clear conscience.” The Holy Spirit given at Pentecost, and given to us through Confirmation, helps us to give answers to people. It helps us to live out our lives as followers of Christ – we need wisdom, understanding, courage, right judgement, knowledge, we need a wonder of the awesomeness of God, and as Peter said we need to “Reverence the Lord Jesus in our hearts,” and show reverence and respect towards those not walking with Christ. The Holy Spirit is within each of us, but through the event of Pentecost, each of us is given a new mission – a mission to bring the joy and love of God to our world, communities and families. Through Pentecost we are given this mission – the mission of the Church.
But how do we live the mission of the Church?
I am sure the mission of God is far greater than reading at Mass, or taking up the collection, or singing or cleaning the church building.
All these things are important in helping us to have reverence for God’s sacred place, or helping us to have more knowledge or understanding, or a more tangible experience of the wonder of God.
But each of us is called to take the mission of the Church with us when we leave the church today. The Church is not limited to this building, or to the bishops, priests or the pope. Each of us need to make our homes into a domestic church – a place where goodness and love are present, a place where there is hope for something more than what we see in the world.
My friends, do we live as if we are working for God? Do we look at our lives and say – what would Jesus do if he was in my family and in my situation?
I often hear people say: “The Church should do this or that.” Some people are unhappy about what the Church is doing. If you see a problem, if you see something the Church should be doing, then take action yourself and do it. The Church belongs to the people of God. It belongs to you. Each Christian family is a domestic church. Within your family church, you should be doing outreach, you should meet to pray, to discuss the mission and you should live the mission. If you see something that should be done, then don’t complain or question why the local church is not doing anything, get in there and do the work which we are all called to do.
My friends, ultimately the advice I give is not sufficient because each and every person knows the way to live the mission of Jesus – it is placed within our hearts – but we need to listen and provide space for God.
A couple of weeks ago I was chatting with some kindergarten kids and they were telling me about how they wished their dads would sit down and chat with them, spend some time with them, and ultimately show them some love. Their family church was letting them down.
My friends, Pentecost is just around corner. Let us begin to think about some conscious ways we can live the mission and life of God. The Holy Spirit is within each of us. Let us prepare to be strengthened by this Spirit which gives glory, praise and honour to God and to all his creation.
Let us pray:
Loving Lord and Father, you breathed your Holy Spirit to be within us and to give us life. You sent your Son to show us how to be perfect human beings, by loving you and all creation every moment of our lives. Strengthen us with your power so that we can life your life and mission in the world. We ask this all through Christ our Lord, Amen.