I’m a big time Boston Celtics basketball fan. One of the strengths of the Celtics is that they are a good defensive team. They pride themselves on their ability to play a solid defense.
I give you the example of the Celtics as to illustrate the posture of the first apostles in the time before the Pentecost event. They were huddled in the upper room behind locked doors out of fear. They were clearly in a defensive posture, but unlike the Celtics, this was not a good place to be. They were in a place of fear.
Defensive Christianity is not a biblical idea. The posture of Christian disciples is not hiding in fear to protect themselves. No, the disciples are sent. To be a follower of Christ after his resurrection is to be sent. In fact, our word “apostle” means “one who is sent.”
Personally when I worry about parish finances or pastoring in the face of criticism, it’s so easy to be defensive. The grace all of us seek as Christian disciples is to be sent forth proactively to proclaim the Lord’s hope and joy in our midst.
Jesus promised to send the Advocate, the Spirit that will guide us to all truth. Jesus said to his first followers and to us: “Receive the Holy Spirit.” “Receive the Breath of God.” In that moment, the Risen Christ raised those fearful, faithless disciples to newness of life.
This is what Pentecost is: the giving of the Spirit, the giving of new life, from the Father through the Son. The Holy Spirit is what makes it possible for people to go when they are sent. The Spirit is God's active, personal presence that accompanies those who are sent. Jesus says, "Receive the Holy Spirit. Go and forgive sins." That's what being gathered is all about: that the followers may be forgiven and renewed, sent and equipped, in order that all people may be reconciled to God by having their sins forgiven.
What would it like for you to possess the gift of forgiveness – the gift to forgive even those people in your life right now who don’t deserve it, even people who act unlovably? This is the Gospel the Spirit impels the disciples to preach. They can preach forgiveness because they have experienced it.
The Spirit-filled gift of forgiveness leads us to possess the gift of welcome – so much so that in our faith community there are no strangers or enemies. Even more in our world, there are no strangers or enemies.
The Pentecost grace leads us to experience the gift of joy – all of life is a gift of God for which we are to be thankful. Pope Francis calls to experience to experience the joy of the Gospel and to encounter the Lord and then to be missionary disciples who proclaim the joy of God’s love to one and all.
Now it may seem that the gifts of forgiveness, welcome, and joy seem too good to be true. For all of us have been a little battle-scarred by the realities and fears of life. Yet, we seek to experience Pentecost as the feast of locked doors. Where are the locked doors in our lives? Where do I find myself isolated in fear, living behind emotionally doors, and hanging on to anger and refusing to come out of hiding?
What are the fears, the insecurities, and the anxieties of your life that keep you behind emotional or spiritual locked doors? Will I be accepted and loved if I step out of my comfort zone? What keeps me from reaching out in service of a person in need?
With the grace of Pentecost, locked doors are blown open. At the first Pentecost, Jesus chooses the very ones who abandoned and betrayed him – to be the wounded, forgiven healers that are to preach the Good News of God’s gracious love and mercy. The strategy of Jesus is that the disciples were forgiven forgivers.
Jesus hasn’t changed his strategy with us. Who are we as the faith community of Holy Spirit? We are God’s forgiven sons and daughters. In the feast of Pentecost, we receive the gift of forgiveness so that we will be sent forth to share the forgiveness and mercy of God with one another and with all. Pentecost promises that the Holy Spirit can be released in each one of us so that we experience an inner peace of forgiveness and love.
How blest are we to be the Church of the Holy Spirit -- the Church of the Pentecost event. We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song. And yes, we are a Pentecostal people. That is not to give us a cardiac arrest to think we are Pentecostal. Rather, we are a faith community that is to claim the gifts and the charisms of the Holy Spirit that we were given on the Day of Pentecost.
The great truth of Pentecost – for the first disciples and us as well – is that the Holy Spirit has the power to enlarge and expand the human heart if we allow the Spirit of Jesus within us to grow and enliven us with the power to live, with the power to forgive, with the power to welcome and receive all others in Jesus’ name. That power, the power of Pentecost becomes our own.
Today’s first Scripture reading tells the story of Pentecost for the first Christian disciples. They experienced conversion. Their lives were transformed. They proclaimed the good news of the love of Jesus. There was a fire in their bellies that shaped their entire lives.
On this day of Pentecost, as we now come to the Table of the Lord, may we reflect and claim our God-given giftedness. Allow yourself to be loved by the Spirit of the Risen Christ. I assure you if we allow ourselves to be loved by the Spirit of Jesus, our lives will be transformed with an inner peace and joy. Then we will be energized in a Spirit-filled way to commit ourselves to using our God-given giftedness in the service of one another.
Have a Blessed Day.