Saturday, 11 June 2011
The extraordinary event that was Pentecost gave birth to the Church. The mighty wind and tongues of fire were symbols of the divine power that would infuse the apostles and the Church in their mission of proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord to the world. In all four gospels Christ had promised that the Father would send the Holy Spirit in his name, and now that promise has come to pass. The Spirit so transformed the disciples that the courage and eloquence they previously lacked now became their hallmark. Luke, the author of Acts, relates that Jewish pilgrims present from many different nations heard the apostles speak about Christ in their own particular language. He probably has in mind the disunity of the human race from its early history as recorded in Genesis (11:1-9), when God confused and scattered humanity because of its pride. Now, at Pentecost, unity is again restored through the Holy Spirit when representatives of many nations could understand the one language of the gospel of Jesus Christ. With good reason the Second Vatican Council could describe the Church as the Sacrament of Unity.
The apostle Paul had a keen awareness of the essential place of the Holy Spirit both in the life of the baptised Christian and in the Church at large. The anointing with the Holy Spirit conferred on believers at baptism enables them to make a full profession of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and the Son of God. With the unity of the Church in mind, Paul teaches that the diversity of spiritual gifts which individual members of the Church enjoy have their single source in the Holy Spirit, and must therefore serve the common good. The Apostle introduces the concept of the Church as a single body with many parts. He is referring here to the Church as the Body of Christ into which believers are incorporated through baptism. This is a profound analogy which seeks to underline the mystery of the Church as the unity of the baptised in Christ, who have a mutual responsibility for each other. The safeguarding of that unity both in fidelity to the tradition of the apostles and the witness of the Christian life is the work of the Holy Spirit.
The Easter evening scene of the risen Lord encountering his disciples in the Upper Room presents us with John’s understanding of the Holy Spirit and his function in the life of the Church. The Evangelist had noted earlier (Jn 7:39) that the Holy Spirit could be given only after Jesus had been glorified. Now the victorious and glorious Jesus was able to share his life-giving Spirit with his disciples as he had promised. At the creation the Lord God breathed into the dust and created man (Gen 2:7); the Church is now the new creation animated by the Holy Spirit. The power of the Spirit, conferred by the risen Christ, will enable the Church to be the means of reconciliation between humanity and God, described here as the forgiveness of sins.
Text © ST PAULS Publishing
This reflection is taken from You Will Be My Witnesses by Bishop Michael Campbell OSA, Bishop of Lancaster, and published by ST PAULS.
Posted by Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma