A Reflection for Pentecost

pentecost 350In the gospel for Pentecost Sunday, we are told that Jesus “came” to the disciples. They were full of fear and behind doors that were locked for fear of their fellow Jews. Little wonder! Their master and friend had been murdered. Their hopes and dreams for a new world had crumbled. They were lost and cast adrift without the one who had become such a friend to them. Given that they were Jesus’ closest friends and followers they must have wondered if they were the next to be murdered. What must have been going through their minds and hearts, as they huddled together paralyzed by their fear?

Into this situation, the risen Lord came. He did not have to knock. Locked doors could not keep him out. Indeed, nothing could keep him out. He simply came. Into their fear, loss, lostness, and near despair Jesus came. There was no recrimination because they had deserted him in his hour of need, again because of fear. There was no judgment because of their abandonment of him when he needed them most. There was only love, forgiveness, and the gift of his peace. “Peace be with you,” the Risen Lord says to those he loved so much, not once but twice (John 20:19-29). How abundantly gracious is the one who ever comes to us and, indeed, is with us in our every need. There is no place or situation where we might be or any depth of our personhood where Jesus is not present and coming to us. The gospel also tells us that he “showed them his hands and his side” (John 20:20). Did the disciples need to see Jesus’ wounds to know he had come to them, or is this for us?

Then we are told that Jesus “breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (20:22). Earlier in John’s gospel, during his last evening with the disciples, Jesus said, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you … I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you … The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you” (John 14:15-31). When Jesus breathes the Spirit on them, he does so from the depths of his communion with the Father, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22).

The Holy Spirit, Jesus’ own Spirit, his love response to his Father, the bond of love they shared, was his gift to the disciples on that evening, as it is to us. What this means is difficult, indeed, impossible to take in. We have been given the gift of love itself to abide in us, to enlighten, strengthen, console, enable, and companion us throughout life. Indeed, in giving us his Spirit, Jesus was giving us the love and life of the Trinity to indwell within us. In the act of breathing his Spirit on his disciples, Jesus drew them and us into the abiding indwelling of the Father and Son. In so doing, he also gave us the tiniest glimpse of the Kingdom - of eternal life - and the reality of our life in the ‘not yet’ to which we are called, the utter fullness of life. I am sure we have all experienced, perhaps often, a dissatisfaction, a restlessness, or a longing for something more in life. Often, we may think this is an indication that something is wrong when rather we are being given a wonderful gift, the gift of longing. Recently, Father Tony Doherty spoke of “the great longing” on his YouTube Easter Reflections, “Breaking Bread Together.” He speaks of “the great longing” in reflection 5.

We all yearn for more in our lives. As we experience the ache of this longing, we can spend years chasing what Fr Tony calls “plastic rainbows” which can never satisfy it. I remember on one occasion teaching a year 12 class. Having set them to work and walking around the classroom, I briefly stopped at a window and looked toward the Adelaide hills when I experienced such longing. It is well to listen gently to our longings and surrender those that are more superficial until we are drawn to that which we most deeply desire.

Pentecost reminds us that the reality and horizon of our lives have been widened beyond measure to what we do not see or fully grasp - but for which we long. We can live very much in the world being aware of and facing the challenges, difficulties, problems, and the opportunities that life brings and, simultaneously, have the Kingdom, ‘the more’ in our hearts and minds. Because of the Paschal Mystery and Pentecost, which are intrinsically linked, we can live in a space in between the ‘now’ and ‘not yet.’ As we are tempted to satisfy our hearts’ desires in the illusions offered by the world, the resulting emptiness and longing draw us back to the reality of our life in God. As we listen to the Spirit’s promptings, we are moved to live from the source of love with which we have been gifted; to walk the path of self-giving love to our brothers and sisters.

Little wonder that Jesus “sends” the disciples. “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20: 21). He wants us to continue his mission of love and forgiveness and to manifest the presence of God in our world. It is only because of having been loved by Jesus and being drawn into the communion Jesus shares with the Father, that we can be such witnesses and glorify the Father as Jesus did. As Mary Coloe puts it:

When Jesus breathes the Spirit onto the disciples and missions
them to continue his work … the gift of the Spirit dwelling
in them, they become the new temple … they and the community
become the locus for God’s continued dwelling in the world.

Thus, the “chain of love” which has its source in the Father, passes to Jesus and then to his disciples and to us. For love is never given for oneself alone but to be shared. In this way we are called into that eternal and never ending perichoresis: the continual out-pouring of self-emptying love in the relationship of co-indwelling within the Trinity. We are missioned, as was Jesus, to manifest the presence and love of God in our scarred and broken world. We are called to be channels of this love, drawing others to God, for the realization of God’s kingdom.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful
and enkindle in them the fire of your love.
Send for your Spirit and they shall be created
and you shall renew the face of the earth.

 

Pauline Compton fdnsc

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