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This Pentecost Sunday let us start with the second stanza of
TODAY’S PSALM [104 or 103], turn it upside down and away from physical death. There are so many ways of dying and scripture contains many references relating to the expression of dying to self. Perhaps the best example is seen in the words of Jesus when he proclaims (JOHN 12:24) “a grain of wheat remains a solitary grain unless it falls into the ground and dies; but if it dies, it bears a rich harvest.“
Now read the second stanza:
“you take away their breath. they die returning to the dust from which they came. You send forth your spirit, and they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.“
We must always remember that the Psalms are poetry which present us with images. Our extract should not be interpreted in such a way as to present a picture of our God as some sort of puppet-master who, so to speak, ‘pulls the plug’ and we ‘snuff it’. On the contrary,
GENESIS tells us (2: 7) that God breathed into us the breath of life and thus we became living creatures.
This breath of life stays with us even during the process of physical death
. However, this breath can very easily become a victim of spiritual emphysema!
The celebration of Pentecost should remind us that it is the Spirit of God which either
(1) keeps our faith-breathing ability in good health, or (2) heals, if make ourselves available, the breathing mechanism when we have taken in too much ‘dust’.
If we take good note of
THIS SUNDAY’S SECOND READING [GALATIANS 5: 16 – 25] we will see the many areas of our living where it is possible for us to slip into a condition of Christian emphysema and make it difficult for the Spirit to operate effectively. On the other hand, Saint Paul lists the fertile ground in which the same Spirit flourishes. Here there exist essential elements of which we should always be aware. TODAY’S GOSPEL EXTRACT [JOHN 15: 26 – 27; 16: 12 – 15] tells us something about them. There we are told that the Spirit is a “Counsellor” and “the Spirit of truth.“ A counsellor is only able to be truly helpful and effective when the truth is laid bare. GENESIS reminds us that the Spirit “hovered over the chaos.“ The moment we start ducking and diving chaos rears its ugly head and we construct an obstacle for the Spirit who is always there and over everything. Nevertheless, if we persist in breathing the ‘dust of chaos’ – pretending it is the truth – the Spirit is in some real way forced to withdraw above the chaos. Saint Paul, today, presents the grand simplicity of the truth: “if we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.“
The Spirit is forced to withdraw and merely hover in those areas where we introduce dishonesty and chaos into our lives. The Spirit of God finds it difficult to breathe in a dusty atmosphere.
As today’s Gospel tells us, it is the
“Spirit of truth“ who “guides us into all the truth.“ As we move, with the help of the hovering Spirit, from dusty areas to more fertile soil we are created again and renewed (see the Psalm). Now, we need to be very conscious of the fact that the Holy Spirit does not work “on his own authority.“ He only “takes what is mine and declares it to you.“ If the result of our various conversions and growths leads us away from the believing community then it is not of God.
Yet, the activity of the Spirit, as our
FIRST READING [ACTS 2: 1 – 11] enjoys a personal dimension. Everyone heard “in their own language“ and as far as the first preachers were concerned they spoke “as the Spirit gave them utterance.“ There is no reason to believe that each preacher spoke absolutely identical words, emphasis or illustrations.
There was unity but not verbal conformity
– and there are different times in our lives when we need to hear in our own language.