On 17 June 2012 at St Joan of Arc Parish in Pietermaritzburg, we celebrated the patronal feast of the parish, and commissioned the various ministries in the parish. The Synod...
What are the real and proper characteristics of a truly
PENTECOSTAL PEOPLE? Are we a people and Church who visibly manifest these hallmarks? Some words from TODAY’S SECOND READING [1 CORINTHIANS 12. 3b – 7. 12 – 13] should be helpful in answering these two questions. There we read that: “for by one Spirit we were all baptised into one body … and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” Are we able to honestly describe ourselves as a truly united body? Are we all drinking of the one Spirit?
As we reflect on and answer let us bear in mind two other points made by Saint Paul in other references. First of all he tells us that “the harvest of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness. goodness, fidelity, gentleness and self-control.”
(Galatians 5: 22) Secondly, the Apostle proclaims that “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” (2 Corinthians 3: 17)
Whatever happens we should never attempt to reduce the celebration of Pentecost to trivia, peripheral issues or a somewhat ridiculous ‘birthday of the Church’. We are a Pentecostal Church. Take a hard and honest look at the three scriptural texts mentioned above.
We have, over the years, in many of these reflections frequently referred to the foundation powerfully expressed in the opening verses of the Book of Genesis. There we are told that the Spirit of God hovered over the original chaos. The Spirit, at the Father’s behest, went into action and in the end God saw everything as good. There is, and never has been, in the history of the Church, a chaos as chaotic
or hazardous as at the start of God’s creative work. There is no problem, confusion or challenge in any of our own personal lives to match what the Spirit was originally more than able to sort out. God’s people were created as a Pentecostal family and community. It is our basic characteristic and we need to give it an opportunity to produce the harvest of the Spirit.
If we listen to
TODAY FIRST SCRIPTURE [ACTS 2: 1 – 11] it becomes impossible to suggest anything else other than that the Church is indeed PENTECOSTAL. The very descent of the Spirit on those gathered in the Upper Room was, in every detail, nothing less than spectacular. In addition, the entire experience had a miraculous effect on those who went out and, for the first time, proclaimed – for the first time – the Good News of Jesus Christ risen from dead. We must not overlook the fact that the Spirit was “distributed … on each one of them.” It was not only given to the Apostles. A further point of importance is to recognise that the event of Pentecost affected people gathered in Jerusalem from all corners of the Diaspora. The Spirit was capable of entering the living of everyone. They were able to hear – each of us in his own native language. The first Pentecostal experience was immediately followed by another. There was no chaos. The activity of the Spirit hovered over what could have been a chaotic situation. EVERYONE WAS DRINKING OF THE SAME SPIRIT.
Why do so many of us harbour a suspicion against the real and positive effects of God’s Spirit? In passing it is helpful to recall some words of Saint Basil the Great who was the bishop of Caesarea in the middle of the 4th Century. ”
The Spirit provides the seal of life … the Spirit brings us to life.” In every moment of each day the Holy Spirit is able to create and re-create the quality of our Christian faith and living. In the absence of our acknowledgement of the Spirit we become fragile Christians. Pentecost Sunday reminds us that our lives and living as the Lord’s disciples could be very different.
Really strong Christian-Catholic faith in the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit means that we make ourselves aware of this personal activity of the Trinity. We need to respect and be available to what is being said to us. Remember that
“where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” We should not imprison ourselves against the Spirit, and as a result miss out on so many opportunities.
Let us reflect on only one regular occasion – our participation in Eucharist. There the word of God is proclaimed. The Holy Spirit is powerfully present in this proclamation. What sort of positive attention do we really give in order to hear and learn what the Spirit is saying to us? Do we hear it in our own, personal, ‘native language’ – whatever that language may be on that particular day of living?
TODAY’S GOSPEL [JOHN 20: 19 – 23]
, in a single example, proclaims much of what has been said. Here, Jesus’ giving of the Spirit covers only one particular gift. However, once again, we are reminded that this gift would have been totally wasted if the disciples, imprisoned by fear, hadremained behind closed doors. TODAY’S PSALM [104 or 103] says it all. “You send forth your Spirit … they are created … renew the face of the earth.“