Pentecost Sunday B
John 15:26-27, 16:12-15
If there ever has been a time to be careful for what we pray for, it is on this Pentecost Sunday when we pray the Response: “Lord, send out your spirit and renew the face of the earth.” When the Spirit comes, there is an explosion of creativity. Our comfortable boundaries are under siege.
All of today’s readings uncover the action of the Spirit. The presence of the Spirit is an unsettling event. It opens up the depth and breadth of Jesus’ revolutionary message. There is a creation of new worlds with expansion of horizons, with the acceptance of the new, the different and the neglected. The Spirit shatters our sense of security, and often, our confidence rooted in false independence. The Spirit always pushes for more, for new ways to include others.
The disciples who received the Spirit, as described in Acts, were only a short while removed from being dominated by the search for power, prestige and wealth in their commitment to Jesus. (Mk 8:22-10:52) With the enlightenment of the Spirit, Jesus’ message had a new transforming power within their hearts. Now the good news of God’s unconditional love and limitless mercy penetrated their entire being. The mystery of the crucified and risen Christ now opened their eyes and hearts. Reality now was experienced with a graciousness and beauty that directed them away from selfishness to the freeing journey of love. With the guidance of the Spirit, they now were at home in Jesus’ upside down world. Finally, they longed to serve, to wash the feet, to be last and desired to lose their life so they could walk in the new reality of life and truth revealed in Jesus.
It took some time, but they soon saw all beyond the Chosen People as brothers and sisters. With much struggle, they broke the bondage of the law and embraced the freedom of the Spirit. They saw clearly the infantile and destructive pull of the flesh. They recognized that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, faithfulness, gentleness self-control.” (Gal 5:22-24)
As the disciples learned to listen to the Spirit, two things became obvious. They had to learn to listen to their hearts. This shattered their traditional and commonsense vision of reality. Secondly, they must assent to the painful consequences of the Spirit’s presence. It always demands change, a disturbing experience.
The disciples recalled Jesus telling them he would send the Sprit to deepen their awareness of his words. This helped them face the turmoil and confusion they eventually learned are the by-product of the Spirit’s movement.
Two concrete examples of this struggle with change for the early Church were the delay of Jesus’ second coming and the reception of Gentiles into the Church. These two issues were truly traumatic events. These make the changes of Vatican II look like an argument over the color and size of the altar cloth.
The disciples learned that Jesus’ Spirit would open them to the future. (John 16:13) Down through history this has been abused by many to foretell the end of the world and other self-serving predictions. In fact, this opening to the future is more in line with all of the Spirit’s work, the building up of the faith community in the footsteps of Jesus. This teaching about the future tells us the Spirit will guide us to see where God is at work moving the faithful community into a future God desires. This is what we mean by the signs of the times. The true future is walking in trust and love guided by God’s Spirit. This calls us to share the creativity of God and to oppose everything that diminishes this call to new life in any and all of our brothers and sisters.