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Pentecost Sunday

May 28, 2023

Sister Clare Carr, OSB shares a reflection on the scripture readings: Acts 2:1-11; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13; John 20:19-23

Over these past 9 months we have lost 4 sisters to death. Faced with the certainty of death I found myself questioning “Is there an afterlife?” Is there resurrection? Did Jesus ascend to his father? What if this is all just a hoax? I placed myself in the presence of the disciples after the death of Jesus. I would think that they were terrified of the Cross, barbaric, shameful, humiliating, and hopeless. They would be terrified of their own community of Jewish believers and leaders. Hiding! Perhaps angry that Jesus left them-abandoned. A deep loss of hope for the kingdom that Jesus spoke of. What about the promises of the beatitudes? The meek shall inherit the earth. The peacemakers shall be called sons and daughters of God. What is real? Then came word of the Resurrection and Jesus’ appearance. The pain of loss found hope. Yet, Jesus was different. He came and went. What did all this mean? Can I hope in the promises? What does this mean for us now? Maybe we should just go fishing!!! Connecting to a past that made sense. But even there Jesus came and this time He invited the disciples to care for his sheep, particularly Peter. His invocation was “follow me” but even then, he had not sent the Spirit.

We hear of the Spirit coming in the first chapter of the Acts, and it was in that experience that His chosen were freed to proclaim the hope of Jesus. This could not be a hoax!!! Because these frightened men and women shared the hope of Jesus despite the dangers. They no longer hid in closed rooms but proclaimed this hope of Jesus-the Messiah. They risked imprisonment, crucifixion, beheading, flogging, humiliation, and loss. We hear in the Acts of the Apostles that they preached the way of Jesus with little response at times. Paul is in Athens preaching the teachings of Jesus and it was said that when they heard about resurrection of the dead, some began to scoff, but others said, “We should like to hear you speak about this some other time.” So Paul left them. Some joined but there were only a few.

It is in the Acts of the Apostles that we hear several times that these men and women risked it all. The spirit of God uniting them into a community of believers.  They were Parthians, Medes and Elamites, Cretans and Arabians hearing the promises of God in the common tongue of love, peace, and a shared community.  Barriers were dropped between cultures and a common language of hope was heard. We also know from the Acts and letters that there was not always smooth sailing so to speak. There were divisions over circumcision, diets, the following of Jewish law. But the spirit breathed over them, and they found union. 

How does this community of the Way speak to us today? Today we would say there is little unity. It seems that we are more divisive than we have ever been.  We have our differences of opinions, choices, and sensibilities. The temptation is always to fiercely defend our ideas, believing them to be good for everybody and agreeing only with those who think as we do. We have created a faith in our own image, based on our egos. We might think that what unites us is our beliefs and our morality, but there is much more: our principle of unity is the Holy Spirit. The Spirit reminds us that we are born from a gift-the gift of love-and that we grow by giving; not by holding on but by giving of ourselves. 

What keeps us from giving? Pope Francis in one of us sermons suggests that there are three attitudes that prevent our giving:  narcissism, victimhood, and pessimism. 

The narcissist thinks: “Life is good if I profit from it, so why should I give of myself?” The victims complain: “No one understands me, no one helps me, no one loves me, everyone has it in for me!”  The heart of the victim is closed, withholding, lost in the morose of their victimhood. The last one is pessimism.  The pessimist gets angry with the world and sits back doing nothing to relieve the situation. “What good is giving? That is useless!” They get caught up in seeing the worst, experiencing hopelessness. In all of these we need the Spirit to heal us of our complaints, darkness, and hopelessness.

Let us Pray:  Spirit, memory of God, revive us. Free us from the paralysis of selfishness and awaken in us the desire to serve, to do good. Make us builders of unity. Grant us the courage to move outside of ourselves and our self-interest.  Help us to become one heart among the many broken, bearing the gifts of the spirit- wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, and discernment of the Spirits.