Refection – Pentecost Sunday 2020

Today is the 50th day of Easter with our celebration of Pentecost, the beginning of our Church. Today’s Scripture readings remind us that Pentecost is an event of both the past and the present. The same Spirit that inflamed the Apostles, is also at work today in us.

The Spirit is that Paraclete (a Greek word that is translated as Counsellor, Comforter, Helper, Encourager, or Enabler), who quietly works in us and through us every day behind the scenes in the basic activities of our lives and the lives of the people around us.

He confronts us and urges us to take a good look at ourselves and where we are heading, to make a U-turn, to leave the old behind and try something new. He’s not afraid to challenge us and stretch us to go and do things for Christ – things we have never done before or ever imagined ourselves doing. He’s the One Who says to us, “Stop being so self-focused. Stop looking into yourself all the time and being depressed by what you see or fool yourself into thinking that what you see in yourself is enough to get you through! Look up, look away, look to Jesus and let him turn your around; let him take control!”

In celebrating the Birthday of the Church with Pentecost, we might ask ourselves, ‘what does the word “church” actually mean?’ What really is its purpose? Some might say that it is a place to feel nourished, loved, respected, and even forgiven. Essentially, it is a place where we gather together as a family. Hopefully, a place that inspires and motivates us to go out into the world on a mission.

With all that has come to pass in our world in recent months as a result of Covid 19, this sense of being a family has not been lost. We may be physically separated from one another and loved ones too, yet those bonds of love that hold us together as a community should be as strong as ever. Love is so much more powerful than all those things that threaten us. It gives us hope and it strengthens faith. This all becomes possible I believe, through the action of the Holy Spirit. This is the same Spirit that was present at the dawn of creation, the same Spirit through whom Jesus’ conception took place and the same Spirit through whom the elements of bread and wine are miraculously transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ at Mass. This same Spirit was poured out on us at Baptism and Confirmation and continues to inflame our hearts.

All of this makes us realise in a profound way, that a church is not just a physical building. It is the people who gather and belong to the community that make a church. We are the holy people of God. A family will always remain a family even though its members may be physically separated from each other. Nothing changes!  This leads us to understand that it is not the structure, it is the relationships that count. People should always come first, buildings come second! In fact, to be a Christian means that we all have a relationship with Christ. And to be Catholic means that we have a relationship with Jesus, but with others too.

What sets us apart from many Protestants denominations is our understanding that our faith is, not just a “Me and Him” relationship, but a “He and Us” relationship. The relationship is not self-oriented, but rather community-oriented, an outward focused. To be Catholic therefore,  should involve being: helpful, loving, prayerful, selfless, faithful, obedient, respectful, and forgiving. These are all qualities of being “in” a relationship. This in turn, should make us ask ourselves, ‘Am I then being Christ to those around me? To anyone?

As we celebrate this Solemnity of Pentecost, even though we are unable to physically gather as a family of faith at this time, in virtue of that same Spirit poured out on the Apostles and on us too, we are still asked to transform our world through our words and actions. We do this principally when we speak words that heal, restore, make people joyful and build people up instead of tearing them down. Christians filled with the Holy Spirit learn to pass on the love of God to those living around them by their acts of kindness, mercy and charity. I am sure that all of us in some way or another have been able to show this.

So today, as Eastertide draws to a conclusion, we pray that our lives may be transformed anew and be imbued with a spirit of love instead of hate, a spirit of helpfulness instead of disrespect, a spirit of generosity instead of greed and a spirit of gentleness instead of ruthlessness. This following prayer was a favourite with Fr Louis McRaye, and he enjoyed praying it often. It is a prayer that we too can share in. It is called the Collect for Purity.

Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secretes are hid: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy name: through Christ our Lord. Amen’.

God bless you,   

Fr Gerardo.