By Fr Anthony Egan S.J. To the African National Congress last week must surely feel as, at worst, the rumour of defeat to come, at best a loud political wake-up...
Most countries, like South Africa, have what is termed a witness
protection programme! This comes into operation when an individual is
needed to give evidence in a crucial trial but his / her life is
threatened by the ‘bad guys’. The State needs the evidence because it
is crucial – without it there is no case. The ‘baddies’ will do
anything to get the case thrown out.
What we have been faced within the last few weeks has had real tones
of a witness protection programme – with a difference – this one was
self-imposed (“for fear of the Jews”)! Even after the Ascension we are
TODAY’S FIRST SCRIPTURE [ACTS 1: 12 – 14] that “the apostles returned
to Jerusalem … and when they had entered they went to the upper
room” (the Cenacle as it is called).
True, Jesus had, earlier, told them to return to Jerusalem and wait
for the promised Spirit but had he intended them to hide themselves?
This reflection is being composed on the day of the canonisation of
‘the two Popes’. In his sermon Pope Francis reminded us that both
these men had lived through times of great tragedy but had not been
overwhelmed by them.
It is also worth noting that this Sunday we are told that the apostles
were not alone. After the Ascension they were joined in the Cenacle by
others. The first reading tells us that they were “together with the
women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.” The
witness protection programme was slowly becoming unprotected.
First of all the apostles had come to realise that they were not
alone, an isolated group. Other people were also involved and these
were in some very real way dependant on them to come out of hiding.
Little by little they were beginning to”believe (they would) see the
Lord’s goodness in the land of the living.” This we are told in
TODAY’S PSALM [27 or 26].
We have to come out of hiding
! We are not isolated individuals but are related to other believers.
Most of us speak clearly, lovingly and firmly about our family ties.
Family, we often say, is important. However, it is not only the
domestic family to which we are related but also the family of
believers, THE CHURCH! Is this fact a faith-reality to us? It is
important that we reflect on this matter before celebrating Pentecost
Sunday. Refer back to our reading from ACTS and note well that all
those gathered in the Upper Room “with one accord devoted themselves
to prayer.” They were together, in prayer, awaiting the promised
Spirit. There is no doubt that they believed something very important,
significant and powerful was going to happen.
Let us, however, not forget the familial ties to which we have
referred. Somehow or other there is urgent need for the Church,
universal, national and local to recapture this strong sense of
community, family, and common purpose. In so many ways we forget that
the ongoing vibrancy of life and living
AS CHURCH depends on each one of us. There is an inter-dependance –
one to the other – in operation. All of this depends on the power and
influence of the Holy Spirit without whom there is, in reality, no
Church! We need to be prepared, especially through prayer, for
Pentecost Sunday. This celebration should not catch us unawares. As
TODAY’S PSALM [27 or 26] tells us – “seek his face.” The Spirit is a
PERSON, the third of the Trinity, and as a person has to be sought
after. It is only with and in the Spirit that we are able to proclaim,
with our Psalm, that “the Lord is my light and salvation; whom shall I
fear? ” And it is the Spirit who “is the stronghold of my life.” This
is what the disciples discovered at Pentecost. We have to seek the
THIS SUNDAY’S SECOND READING [1 PETER 4: 13 – 16] we are reminded of
all of this: “the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” This
statement must become the foundation of our reading and appreciation
of THIS SUNDAY’S GOSPEL [JOHN 17: 1 – 11a].
Jesus knows that “the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may
glorify you.” His glorifying of the Father was not confined to
Calvary. The Resurrection was to follow, and so was Pentecost. He went
on to teach that the disciples knew that the Father was “the only true
God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” The disciples knew this but
did not know that they knew! Their knowledge only came to life at
Pentecost was essential because “I am no longer in the world, but they
are in the world.”
WE ARE IN THE WORLD AND THE WORLD ONLY COMES TO KNOW AND UNDERSTAND
THROUGH US AS WE CO-OPERATE WITH THE SPIRIT! He has given us the words
that the Father gave him. We must not be afraid or hesitant about
Pentecost or the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives –
because the Lord Jesus himself says that “I am praying for them, I am
not praying for the world.”