Following the Feast of Pentecost, the Church officially moves into Ordinary Time. The liturgical calendar is divided into “seasons:” Advent-Christmas-Epiphany, LentEaster, Pentecost and the Sundays following, Ordinary Time.
During the thirty weeks of Ordinary Time, the Church focuses our attention on the teachings of Jesus. We listen to many parables. We witness many miracles and healings that Jesus performed. We contemplate their meaning and try to adapt something we’ve gleaned from them to our everyday lives.
To start off this portion of the liturgical year, the Church accents three important elements of our faith by naming the Sundays: Trinity Sunday, the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ and the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
With the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost our “understanding” of God is complete. The Father sent the Son to redeem us. The Son, in turn, sent the Holy Spirit to teach us, guide us and enlighten us. We contemplate God as Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier One God, three Persons: The Holy Trinity.
In the Feast of the Body of Blood of Christ, we celebrate Jesus’ abiding presence among us in the Eucharist that we so often celebrate.
Then we celebrate the tremendous love of the Heart of Christ revealed to us though his life, his sacrificial death, and his resurrection. This is commemorated in the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
But today, we focus on the Feast of the Holy Trinity. In the second reading, from Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans, we’re given an important teaching: “The love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” Paul is telling us that we have been drawn into the life of the Trinity because the Holy Spirit has poured God’s love into us. And so, we dare to call God, “our Father.”
This first reflection in Ordinary Time is profound but so basic to who we are as Christians. We believe that we’re children of God because we share God’s very life by sharing in God’s love. We deepen and perfect that love when we love as Jesus loved – when we love as totally as we can, when we lay down our lives for one another every day, when we live, not for ourselves, but for others.
Let’s conclude our reflection by recalling the teaching of John, the Evangelist. “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God in them.” (1 John 4:16b)
We have two accounts of the Pentecost event to enrich our reflection today. Let’s look at the gospel account first.
John’s account is subtle; it’s contained within his resurrection account. The passage begins on the day of the resurrection. Shortly before sunrise Mary of Magdala discovered that Jesus’ body was no longer in the garden tomb. She went back to tell the disciples. Peter and John ran back to the tomb with her to find it just as she had reported. After inspecting the tomb they returned to the group leaving Mary at the tomb.
Weeping, she looked, once again, into the tomb. There were two angels dressed in white sitting on the slab where Jesus’ body had been laid. “Why are you weeping?” they asked. Numb with grief, their appearance made little impression on her. Her answer was simple and direct. “They’ve taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they have put him.” She didn’t even wait for a response. She stood up only to find a man standing near her. He asked the same question as the angels. “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?” Presuming that he was the gardener she pleaded with him, “If you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.” Then, in the matter of a second, the darkness surrounding her gave way to the light of the sun. The man spoke her name, “Mary.” Jesus was alive!
Meanwhile Peter and John had returned to the other disciples who were in hiding behind locked doors. The fact that Jesus’ body had been taken away only increased their fear of imminent arrest. Their muffled conversation was suddenly replaced by gasps. People moved to the periphery of the room. Jesus was standing in the middle of the room. His rich, full voice extended the Sabbath greeting to them, “Shalom aleichem.” He showed them the wounds in his hands and his feet. It was Jesus. Truly. It was Jesus. He was alive! Some cried. Some laughed. Some put their hands over their mouths in amazement. He greeted them a second time. “Shalom aleichem.” Then, he commissioned them. “As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.”
It’s at this moment, the very evening of the resurrection, that John inserted the Pentecost event. It was a simple action. “He breathed on them and said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” This was the moment of a second creation. Everyone in the room recalled the words of their ancient scripture. “God shaped man from the soil of the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and man became a living being.” Jesus went from one to another breathing
on them, blowing into them the breath of life – new life – divine life. He then anointed them for a mission. “If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven.; if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained.” He was sending them out to unbind humankind from the shackles of sin. He was giving them the power to open the gates of heaven.
Luke’s account was much more dramatic, and much more public. It took place fifty days after the resurrection – after the Passover of the Lord. It was on the day of the Jewish feast of Shavuot, commemorating the day God gave Moses the law – the day the twelve tribes became a nation with law and statutes.
The disciples were in hiding when they heard the deafening noise of a driving wind. It was so loud that it was heard in the street below them. Then a fire bolt exploded in the middle of the room sending tongues of fire to rest on the head of each man and woman. The flame purified them of their fear and hesitation. The people outside not only heard them proclaiming “the mighty acts of God,” but heard the proclamation in their own language, and the proclamation pierced their hearts. Three thousand people came to believe in Jesus that day!
On the day of Pentecost God breathed new life into the frightened disciples of Jesus. That day, the fire Jesus promised to cast over the earth entered the hearts of the disciples only to pour out of them in words of proclamation.
Today, let’s ask the Spirit to purify our hearts with holy fire that touched the early disciples. Let’s breathe in the Christ life that the Spirit brings. Let’s not be afraid any longer to see the world in a new way. Let’s not be afraid to witnesses to his teachings and his ministry and his living presence among us.
We’re celebrating the last Sunday of Easter, the seventh Sunday. We’ve been on a spiritual high as we reviewed and contemplated the Resurrection of Jesus.
On Easter Sunday we were with Mary Magdalene when she discovered that the body of Jesus was gone. We watched Peter as he bent down to look into the empty tomb. We witnessed John gazing into the tomb with the new eyes of faith.
The following Sunday after we heard Thomas say that he would never believe that Jesus was alive unless he touched his wounds. We watched his face when Jesus showed him his hands and his side. We came to realize that Thomas doubted because he had detached himself from the faith community, the body of Christ.
The third Sunday we felt the cool morning breeze along the Sea of Galilee. We saw Peter, Nathaniel, Thomas and a few others catching 153 very large fish. We saw Jesus feeding them with bread and fish, and then freeing Peter from the shackles of his three betrayals. We heard Peter called. We heard ourselves called. “Follow me.”
The fourth Sunday of Easter Jesus looked into our eyes. Love radiated from him as he embraced us and comforted us. He whispered to us his promise of future glory. “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.”
On the fifth Sunday we listened to Jesus as we’ve never listened before. He imparted to us the secret of eternal life. “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how they will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
He made a promise to us the following week. He told us that the Father would send us the Advocate, the Holy Spirit. He promised that the Spirit would be our guarantee that throughout the centuries Jesus would remain with us. He would continue to teach us. He promised that we would experience peace – not the world’s idea of peace – true peace – peace of mind and heart – the peace that rests on us as we lay our heads against our Father’s breast.
The week of weeks is over. Now we wait for the new breath of the Spirit.
Today’s gospel passage is a prelude to the feast of Pentecost – the celebration of the birth, life and mission of the Church. In today’s gospel passage we’re at the last supper listening to Jesus prepare his apostles and disciples for the coming of the Holy Spirit. He sets a context for the Spirit’s coming – love. “Whoever loves me will keep my word and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.”
Last week we heard the command Jesus spoke to us, “Love one another as I have loved you.” His call to a life of sacrificial love is the disciple’s manifesto. He teaches us that as we empty ourselves in love for one another, as we free ourselves of ego and self-centeredness, new life begins to grow in us. “We will come to him and make our dwelling with him.”
The Holy Spirit begins his work in a heart that loves as Jesus loved, sacrificially. The Spirit feeds that love by illuminating our minds and reminding us of all Jesus told us.
Take a moment to think of some of the things Jesus told us.
“Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
“Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for youselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach or moth destroy. For where your treasure is, there also will be your heart.”
“How happy are the poor in spirit. How happy are the meek. How happy those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Happy the merciful and the clean of heart. Happy are the peacemakers.”
“You are the light of the world.” “You are the salt of the earth.”
“Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”
When we draw these teachings into our hearts we invite God to make his dwelling in us. Then we begin to know his peace. It won’t be the peace we struggle to achieve in the world. God’s peace dwells in our hearts even in war and our personal struggles. Nothing can trouble our hearts. Nothing can disturb our peace because God has replaced our fear with his love.
When we succumb to the Spirit our hearts become the holy city spoken of in today’s reading from the Book of Revelation. We become the Spirit’s temple. We need no sun or moon because the glory of God is shining within us – the light of the Lamb who was slain.
In preparation for the coming feast of Pentecost I encourage you to pray daily to the Holy Spirit. Invite him into your heart. Ask for a deeper knowledge of Jesus’ teaching. Ask for peace of heart and mind. Ask for all you need to be a true disciple of Jesus. Consecrate yourself to him. Don’t be afraid.