Pentecost. If I was to sum it up in two words; FREEDOM and POWER. The disciples were gathered together, as we hear in Acts 2:1-11, and the Holy Spirit was poured out upon them. What happened to them that day changed their lives forever and changed the world (I would say that is why we are here worshipping in this church today) because they were given strength and they went out proclaiming the Lord.
The sacrament of Confirmation is our tangible sign of Pentecost today; the work of the Holy Spirit comes to completion in us as the work of baptism is completed in our lives. We receive courage and power to be true and authentic witnesses in what we say and do.
What I find most interesting today is how this reading from Acts 2 is contrasted with the Gospel reading (John 20:19-23). And specifically where and what the disciples were doing. Jesus had just been buried in the tomb and the disciples were locked behind closed doors. All of us, at some point in our lives, have also been in this place before, locked up. But the message from Acts today is about freeing us to be the people God has called us to be.
Amidst fear and pain in our lives Jesus wants to come behind our closed doors and offer us ‘Peace’. What is important to note, in this Gospel passage, is that this was Christ’s first appearance to his disciples after his death. How powerful that the first words he utters, after his sacrifice on the cross to save us all from sin, was “Peace”. And he breathes new life in to them, as God breathed on Adam to give him life at the first creation. With that breath he also commissions them with the power to forgive sins, this power that he won through his sacrifice on the cross. Ever since, this ministry has been carried out by the sacrament of reconciliation, or confession. Again, how close it must be to his heart if it was one of the first things he did after coming back from the dead. If he cared about it so much, then so should we!
As we contemplate the Holy Spirit, and especially this powerful story of how the Holy Spirit filled the disciples in such a powerful and moving way, it is easy to think that unless we experience a special feeling or perceive a supernatural phenomenon the Holy Spirit is not at work in us. However if we look to Jesus, how God became man and walked among us, we can see that he turns normal realities into channels of grace. The Holy Spirit acts in our lives powerfully in many ‘normal’ ways; through the sacraments of the Church, as we have just talked about, Baptism, Confirmation, and Confession, and also the Eucharist. Marriage is also a sacrament, Holy Orders, and the Anointing of the Sick. The Holy Spirit also acts in or lives through the preaching and the teaching of the Church’s ministers and through our own prayer and reflection on the Scriptures.
It really is an amazing gift that we have such access to tangible ways be able to live in the freedom that Christ offers though the Holy Spirit. Maybe you have never experienced the sacrament of reconciliation before or maybe it has been a long time, but I would encourage you to take some time for this. I would say, that for myself, this has been one of the biggest ways that I have encountered God’s grace and freedom in my life. When we are freed from our fears and shortfalls and close to God we have the grace and the power to be able to reach out to others in charity. And again, this was Christ’s first gift he offered to us after his death and resurrection.
The key is Pentecost. We receive the power to do the work that we need to do. If we are ready to find the Holy Spirit in our daily lives, in ordinary ways, He is there with the power for us to live in his freedom. This week let us look for opportunities to come from behind the door, from being locked up, to go out and proclaim Christ.
Further Scripture for reflection:
1 Corinthians 12.3-7, 12-13
Come, Holy Spirit, come!
And from your celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine!
Come, Father of the poor!
Come, source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine.
You, of comforters the best;
You, the soul’s most welcome guest;
Sweet refreshment here below;
In our labor, rest most sweet;
Grateful coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.
O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of yours,
And our inmost being fill!
Where you are not, we have naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.
Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:
Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.
On the faithful, who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gift descend;
Give them virtue’s sure reward;
Give them your salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end. Amen.