Pentecost - B 2015

Happy Birthday, Church

Starters from Fr. Tony Kadavil:
Pentecost  literally  means  50th.  It  is  a  feast  celebrated  on  the  50th   day  after  the Passover feast by the Jews and a feast celebrated on the 50th day after the feast of the Resurrection of Jesus by the Christians. The Jewish Pentecost was originally a post- harvest thanksgiving feast.   Later it was celebrated to remember God’s covenants with Noah after the Deluge and with Moses at Mt. Sinai

The event
On the day of Pentecost
1) The Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles and Blessed Virgin Mary as fiery tongues.
2) The frightened apostles were transformed into fiery preachers and evangelizers by a special anointing of the Holy Spirit.
3) The audience experienced a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit with the gift of tongues, hearing Peter speaking in their languages.
4) The early Christians became powerful witnesses and brave martyrs for faith.

The role of the Holy Spirit in Christian life
1) As an indwelling God, He makes us His Living Temples (I Cor 3:16).
2) As a strengthening God, He strengthens us in our fight against temptations and in our mission  of  bearing  witness  to  Christ  by  transparent  Christian  lives 
3)  As  a sanctifying God, He makes us holy through the sacraments:
a) He makes us children of God and heirs of heaven through Baptism.
b) He makes us temples of God, warriors and defenders of faith, through Confirmation.
c) He enables us to be reconciled to God by pardoning our sins through Reconciliation.
d) He gives us spiritual nourishment via the Holy Eucharist by converting bread and wine into Jesus body and blood through Epiclesis.
4) As a teaching and guiding God, He clarifies and constantly reminds us of Christs teachings.
5) As a listening and talking God, He listens to our prayers and enables us to pray, and He speaks to us through the Bible.
6) As a giver of gifts, He gives us His gifts, fruits and charisms.
Life Messages

We need to permit the Holy Spirit to take control of our lives:

1) By constantly remembering His holy presence, and behaving well.
2) By praying for His daily anointing so that we may fight against our temptations and control our evil tendencies, evil habits and addictions.
3) By asking His daily assistance to pray well, by listening to God through meditative reading of te Bible and by talking to Him.
4) By asking the help of the Holy Spirit to do good to others and to be  reconciled to 

Anecdote 1) Treasure within: An old beggar lay on his deathbed. His last words were to his youngest son who had been his constant companion during his begging trips. “Dear son," he said, “I have nothing to give you except a cotton bag and a dirty bronze bowl which I got in my younger days from the junk yard of a rich lady.” After his father’s death, the boy continued begging, using the bowl his father had given him. One day a gold merchant dropped a coin in the boy’s bowl and he was surprised to hear a familiar clinking sound. “Let me check your bowl,” the merchant said. To his great surprise, he found that the beggar’s bowl was made of pure gold. “My dear young man," he said, “why do you waste your time begging? You are a rich man. That bowl of yours is worth at least thirty thousand dollars.”
We Christians are often like this beggar boy who failed to recognize and appreciate the value of his bowl. We fail to appreciate the infinite worth of the Holy Spirit living within each of us, sharing His gifts and fruits and charisms with us. On this major feast day we are invited to experience and appreciate the transforming, sanctifying and strengthening presence of the Holy Spirit within us. This is also a day to renew the promises made to God during our Baptism and Confirmation, to profess our faith, and practice it.

Anecdote 2: “Lower your bucket-- taste and see”: More than a century ago, a great sailing ship was stranded off the coast of South America. Week after week the ship lay there in the still waters with not a hint of a breeze. The captain was desperate; the crew was dying of thirst. And then, on the far horizon, a steamship appeared, headed directly toward them. As it drew near, the captain called out, "We need water! Give us water!" The steamship replied, "Lower your buckets where you are." The captain was furious at this cavalier response but called out again, "Please, give us water." But the steamer gave the same reply, "Lower your buckets where you are!" And with that they sailed away! The captain was beside himself with anger and despair, and he went below. But a little later, when no one was looking, a yeoman lowered a bucket into the sea and then tasted what he brought up: It was perfectly sweet, fresh water! For you see, the ship was just out of sight of the mouth of the Amazon. And for all those weeks they had been sitting right on top of all the fresh water they needed! What we are really seeking is already inside us, waiting to be discovered, waiting to be embraced: the Holy Spirit of God who has been living within us from the first second of our life. The Holy Spirit is saying to us at this very moment, "Lower your buckets where you are. Taste and see!" from deep in our heart: Come, Holy Spirit! Fill our hearts, and set us on fire! Amen.

Michel DeVerteuil 
General Comments
Pentacost 1
Knowing the background to the liturgical celebration of Pentecost is important to help us understand the feast correctly. People often say to me that they are unhappy with the way Pentecost is celebrated in the liturgy; they find it comes and goes too quickly. Easter gets plenty of importance, having its own “octave”, so that the celebration continues for eight days; Ascension is celebrated until Pentecost, but Pentecost itself is over in one day, and then we are back in Ordinary Time. Churches are beautifully decorated in red – but only for one day.
There is a simple reason why Pentecost lasts one day only: in the Church’s liturgy, Easter is one fifty day celebration, and Pentecost marks its close. This was one of the changes brought about by the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Before that, Pentecost – known as Whit Sunday – was celebrated as a major feast, with its own vigil and octave.
Restoring the importance of the liturgical seasons was one of the major conciliar reforms. The Decree on the Liturgy states (107 and 108): the liturgical year is to be revised so that the traditional customs and discipline of the sacred seasons shall be preserved and restored.” It added, “Their specific character is to be retained so that they duly nourish the piety of the faithful as they celebrate the mysteries of the Christian redemption,” and again, “The minds of the faithful should be directed primarily towards the feasts of the Lord whereby the mysteries of salvation are celebrated throughout the years” so that “ the entire cycle of the mysteries of salvation may be suitably recalled.”
The seasons remind us that being followers of Jesus means more than obeying his commandments; it means being in union with him, in the words of Fr, Clyde Harvey’s wonderful hymn, “being the body of the Lord, having his spirit coursing through our souls.”
Each season celebrates a particular moment in the life of Jesus; we refer to these as “mysteries” because he continues to live them in us today. We don’t merely “remember” the seasons, we “celebrate” them, recognizing similar stages in our own lives. As the Vatican Council stated, “They are in some way present at all times; the faithful lay hold of them and are filled with saving grace.”
There are five seasons, and they are arranged chronologically to correspond to the stages of Jesus’ life:
1–    during advent he is in Mary’s womb;
2–    at Christmas he is a baby and then a little child;
3–    during Lent he is a powerful adult, preaching repentance and new life;
4–    in the Sacred Triduum he is powerless, passing through death to resurrection.
5–    Easter the fifth and final season; it celebrated the last stage in Jesus’ life when he did three things:
–    he rose from the dead,
–    ascended into heaven,
–    sent the Holy Spirit on his followers.
These are three different historical events but also three aspects of the one “mystery” of Jesus’ triumph over death.
–    The resurrection reminds us that his tomb was empty, death had no power over him.
–     The ascension that he was no longer limited to one place and time but was at the  right  hand of the Father and at the same time “with” his followers as they went out into the whole world “making disciples of all nations”.
– The sending of the Spirit that he was now really present within them – the “short time” had passed and they could “see him” again (cf. John 16:17).
The sequence of the different aspects of the Easter event varies in the  New Testament accounts. St Luke’s gospel (which we read on the feast of the Ascension in Year 2) tells us that Jesus ascended on Easter Sunday, and in the gospel readings for the feast of Pentecost St John relates that Jesus Breathed the Spirit on the disciples on “the evening of the same day” – Easter Sunday. It is also significant that, according to the lectionary,  we read the story of the coming of the Holy Spirit in the first reading of Easter Monday, and that of Jesus’ promise to send the Spirit on the Sundays and weekdays of the fifth and sixth weeks of Easter time.
pentecost2The liturgy, then, far from downplaying the sending of the Holy Spirit, highlights it. But it also gives us some important pointers on how we are to understand this event. I will just mention three.
1.    People sometimes refer to Pentecost as “the feast of the Holy Spirit”, but that is not a good expression. It is a feast of Jesus, the “mystery” of his sending the Holy Spirit on his followers, the moment when he became present to them in a new way – by being with them.
2.    We too come to a stage in our lives as parents, teachers, church ministers and spiritual guides, when we have to let go of those God has entrusted to our care and let them live their own lives. Like Jesus, we must “breathe on them”, so that they may be guided inwardly by the values we taught them. Like Jesus too we can do that only if we have first given our lives for them – which will include being crucified.
3.    The coming of the Holy Spirit is an event in our lives as it was for Jesus’ disciples. It is the moment when we realize that following Jesus is not a matter of keeping commandments but of having him live within us. The experience is always the culmination of a journey – we first have to look wonderingly at an empty tomb; to see the risen Jesus and then to have him vanish from our sight; to wait a long time in Jerusalem, trusting that the Lord’s promise will be fulfilled.

Scripture Reflection
“Walk the dark ways of faith and you will attain the vision of God.” St Augustine
Lord, we thank you for this Easter season which we have now completed.
We thank you for the times when we have to stand hopefully
before an empty tomb,
times when we see you and live with you
and then have you vanish from our sight
and have to wait for you in Jerusalem for what seems an interminable time,
until eventually your promised Spirit comes on us and we can live again.
bible reading1“The literal meaning of Scripture is the field, while the deeper and more profound spiritual reading is the treasure hidden in the field.”  Origen
Lord, we thank you for the times when we have remained hidden from others.
We too were afraid that the terrible deeds that were done to Jesus
might be done to us.
Then you walked through our closed doors and,
with no advance warning, you came to stand among us.
You did not condemn us.
You merely assured us that we can live in peace.
You made us feel secure – within ourselves,
with one another, and with you, our only God.
Lord, we thank you for the times when we felt we were really thirsting
to go to others as you sent us to them.
We too can tell others the good news
that they can rise from the dead and find new life in you.
Lord, we thank you for the times that we can say to one another
what Jesus said to his disciples.
We too have felt within us that feeling of being close to God.
We would like to share this feeling with all those you have given to us.
Help us by word and gesture to make this a reality.
Spirit within usUnderstanding can follow where experience leads.” St Bernard
Lord, we thank you that just as you have felt his inner spirit within you,
You eventually became able to breathe on us.
We could then feel your presence within us.
We knew then that you were at work among us.
“The gravest sin committed against our country is to have classified the struggle of the Guatemalan people as the work of communists.” Rigoberta Menchu
Lord, remind us that we who have been blessed
By the sending of the Holy Spirit do not belong to the world.
We therefore have the ability to forgive the real sins of your people,
but we can also retain those which need to be retained and not forgiven.
Thomas O’LoughlinIntroduction to the Celebration
Today we are celebrating a feast that was celebrated by many of the Jews who lived at the time of Jesus. Many of his early followers continued to celebrate it after the resurrection, and so it became part of the annual celebrations of all Christians. However, over the first few decades of the church, this feast took on a new meaning: Jesus has risen and ascended to the Father, but he promised us his Spirit.
fiery heartSo today we rejoice that the Spirit is moving in each of our hearts making us a people, inspiring us to understand the mystery of our faith, and strengthening us to follow Jesus the Anointed One.
Gospel Notes
1. The focus of Pentecost for Christians is as a celebration of, and a thanksgiving for, the presence and focus of the Spirit in our lives as Christians. The Spirit is the one who brings unity
— unity with one another and with Christ, and so the church is ‘his’ work. Today is a thanksgiving for this gift, membership of the church, which we profess in the recitation of the Creed: ‘we believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church’. Significantly, it is this gift of belonging to the People that made Christianity so attractive in the early centuries of its life where the emphasis was not on a set of peculiar doctrines which were shared by a group (e.g. the eastern mystery cults), but on belonging to a new community which had doctrines peculiar to it. We see this concern with belonging to the church in one of the simplest creeds that has survived from that time: ‘I believe in God, the almighty Father and in his only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit and in the resurrection of the flesh in the holy catholic church.’ Belonging to this universal (i.e. catholic) group that cut across social, ethnic, linguistic, and political boundaries, was central to their self-understanding and was the on-going work of the Spirit.
2. If Luke wants us to use a festival fifty days after our Passover to recall the fundamental belief that the presence of God, the Spirit, dwells within and activates the church, how does he imagine that presence? It is with this question we should
look at his carefully crafted story in Acts 2.
The Spirit is the one who gathers us — all the different ‘nations’ are brought into contact with one another. Then the Spirit unites them into one church gathered around Jesus — so the followers of Jesus everywhere are linked through the apostles. The Spirit then inspires them and sends them forth to be the witnesses to Jesus to the ends of the earth. As Luke writes he has in mind the many individual churches where
his work will be read and wants to ensure that each individual church recognises itself as a node in a great web that stretches not only across the empire (the oikumene) — ‘visitors from Rome’ — but even beyond its borders (Parthians and Medes)
and so is universal.
3. We tend to think of ‘the church’ firstly as the worldwide in situation and then of the local church as only ‘the local office’. Hence we have tremendous concern with making sure that everything is the same universally — just look at the old arguments for a single liturgy in Latin or the present arguments over translations. This attitude blinds us to much of Luke’s ecclesiology. He did not see unity as a unitary glut: but rather that the gospel could adapt itself to each nation — hence they did not hear the message in the lingua franca (in which he himself wrote) but in their own tongues. Unity between the churches is a gift of the Spirit, not a function of uniformity of
practice. This reflected the real situation in which Luke wrote, where Christianity was already present (and this is pointed out in Acts) in, at least, four major linguistic areas: Greek (Asia and eastern Europe) and so Latin, Syriac (the spread of Christianity eastwards from Palestine), and the vernaculars of Egypt! the Nile valley. He assumed that they would each be different but would be bonded together not only by common rituals and books, but by a vision of themselves that was larger than their own Eucharistic group, region, nation, or any political boundary. While they would live and act locally, they would think globally, and so testify that the new covenant meant Christ through them was offering his risen life to every human.
Sean GoanGospel
The fourth gospel speaks of the Holy Spirit as the Paraclete or Advocate. The word is taken from legal language and may refer to a lawyer for the defence, but it also means a guide and today’s text, taken from two different chapters of John, speaks to us about both aspects. The work of the Holy Spirit is to makes us confident witnesses as we show the world that there is more to life that mere survival or the pursuit of pleasure. The Spirit of truth allows us to witness in every era to the timeless message of God’s love – a truth revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. However, such is the depth of the mystery of the Word made flesh that no single generation can grasp it entirely and so we are guided by the Spirit in coming to a greater understanding of what is revealed.
Birthdays deserve to be celebrated. They are occasions when we can be thankful for the gift of life, and for the love we have received. They provide the opportunity for families to get together and recall good memories from the past and also a chance to look to the future, aware of how far we have come. So it is with Pentecost. Today is the birthday of the church, a time for us to celebrate who we are andchurch birthday to rediscover what it means to be the people of God. Down through the centuries the Holy Spirit has guided the church, despite the weaknesses of its members, both clerical and lay. We have the witness of many generous and heroic people who have been ‘led by the Spirit’ and whose lives have given eloquent testimony to the power of God at work in them. Today, then, let’s take heart and invoke the Spirit of God that we may be filled with a joyful appreciation of who we are and what we have to give. This brings with it many challenges, since for many religious people their faith acts as a sort of security blanket, offering certainty and security.
However, the good news is not about how things were in the past but about the Spirit of God at work now and always.

From Father James Gilhooley
A poor European family was coming to the US early last century. On the ship, they had as food the bread and cheese they had purchased prior to sailing.

After many days of cheese sandwiches, the son came to his father, "Dad, if I have to eat cheese sandwiches all the way across the Atlantic, I won't make it." The sympathetic father gave him his last nickel for ice cream. Hours later the child returned. The father noticed his wide smile. He asked what he had eaten. "Several plates of ice cream, dad, and then a steak dinner." "For a nickel?" "No, dad, the food is free. It's part of the passage ticket." He returned the coin to his father.

The filet mignon of the Holy Spirit came to us with the ticket of our Baptism and Confirmation. No one has to continue eating cheese sandwiches everyday. No doubt cheese will nourish us. However, we will die of boredom before cholesterol kills us.

We have listened to Christ's command, "Receive the Holy Spirit." Each of us received the Holy Spirit at Baptism and Confirmation. The Spirit's gifts are awesome. Listen to them: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. We must learn to use them. The Holy Spirit, says Daniel Durken, came to dispel the A,B,C, and Ds of our humdrum lives - apathy, boredom, coldness, and dullness.

When St Paul dropped in on Ephesus (Acts 19), he judged they were lacking a get up and go spirit. So he asked point-blank, "Have you received the Holy Spirit?" Why would he ask that, inquires Peter Kreeft, unless he observed a power shortage in their company? The Ephesus Christians were dragging themselves along on 60 volts when all the time they could have been charged with 120 volts. When they replied they had not received the Spirit, Paul confirmed them. They became supercharged people.

Why were the twelve, many of them illiterate, able to win a world for their Leader? And why are a billion Christians unable to repeat the same feat today? The answer is the Apostles used the Holy Spirit's gifts to the full and we do not.

The Spirit's gifts operate in our ordinary lives under extraordinary conditions. They kick in, as someone has said, as "unruly house guests." People blossom to levels of wisdom or fortitude they never dreamed possible. During the French Revolution, an informer notified the Mother Superior of a Carmelite convent that the following day all the sisters would be guillotined. She told her nuns. She said that the convent gate would be left open for anyone who wished to flee. Only one ran away. The next morning the rest were brought to the guillotine. The sisters were about to place their heads on the block. Then they observed with pride that the nun who had run away stepped out of the crowd and joined her sisters. What had brought her back? It was the gift of fortitude from the Holy Spirit.

Benedict Groeschel writes the gifts of the Spirit were sewn into us like seeds. They remain in the desert of our souls waiting to be nourished and given life. The driest desert in the world, says Groeschel, is in Chile. One time the desert had not seen rain for sixteen years. Then the rains came. The result was the desert was marked with tiny enamel-like flowers. They were there all the time just waiting for proper growth conditions. As it was in Chile, so it is with each of our spirits.

The saddest young man I ever met was a fellow I encountered at a college. He was asked by a student who knew he was a devout Catholic at home, "Why don't I see you at Sunday Mass?" The teen replied, "Would you want me to be the only one in my dorm to go?" The student had received the gift of fortitude from the Holy Spirit, but he was afraid to use it. Which will it be for us - steak or cheese sandwiches?

Will we recall the monk who preached that God the Father gave us His Spirit so that we might become like His Son?

A five year old pre-Communion child watched her mother receive the Eucharist. She asked, "Will you share Jesus with me?" Will we, helped by the Spirit, share Jesus with our friends? Napoleon Bonaparte said, "There are two forces on this earth, the force of arms and the force of the Spirit. The force of the Spirit is stronger." Why don't we prove that by our lives?

From the Connections: 

Pentecost was the Jewish festival of the harvest (also called the Feast of Weeks), celebrated 50 days after Passover, when the first fruits of the corn harvest were offered to the Lord.  A feast of pilgrimage (hence the presence in Jerusalem of so many “devout Jews of every nation”), Pentecost also commemorated Moses’ receiving the Law on Mount Sinai.  For the new Israel, Pentecost becomes the celebration of the Spirit of God’s compassion, peace and forgiveness -- the Spirit that transcends the Law and becomes the point of departure for the young Church’s universal mission (the planting of a new harvest?).
In his Acts of the Apostles (Reading 1), Luke invokes the First Testament images of wind and fire in his account of the new Church’s Pentecost:  God frequently revealed his presence in fire (the pillar of fire in the Sinai) and in wind (the wind that sweeps over the earth to make the waters of the Great Flood subside).  The Hebrew word for spirit, ruah, and the Greek word pneuma also refer to the movement of air, not only as wind, but also of life-giving breath (as in God’s creation of man in Genesis 2 and the revivification of the dry bones in Ezekiel 37).  Through his life-giving “breath,” the Lord begins the era of the new Israel on Pentecost.
Today’s Gospel of the first appearance of the Risen Jesus before his ten disciples (remember Thomas is not present) on Easter night is John’s version of the Pentecost event.  In “breathing” the Holy Spirit upon them, Jesus imitates God's act of creation in Genesis.  Just as Adam’s life came from God, so the disciples’ new life of the Spirit comes from Jesus.  In the Resurrection, the Spirit replaces their sense of self-centered fear and confusion with the “peace” of understanding, enthusiasm and joy and shatters all barriers among them to make of them a community of hope and forgiveness.  By Christ’s sending them forth, the disciples become apostles – “those sent.”

The feast of Pentecost celebrates the unseen, immeasurable presence of God in our lives and in our Church -- the ruah that animates us to do the work of the Gospel of the Risen One, the ruah that makes God’s will our will, the ruah of God living in us and transforming us so that we might bring his life and love to our broken world.  God “breathes” his Spirit into our souls that we may live in his life and love; God ignites the “fire” of his Spirit within our hearts and minds that we may seek God in all things in order to realize the coming of his reign.
Today we celebrate the gift of God’s Spirit -- the Spirit that enables us to love as selflessly and as totally as God loved us enough to become one of us, to die for us and to rise for us; the Spirit that takes us beyond empty legalisms and static measurements of “mine” and “yours” to create a community of compassion, reconciliation and justice centered in “us”; the Spirit that enables us to re-create our world in the peace and mercy of God.
In Jesus' “breathing” upon them the new life of the Spirit, the community of the Resurrection – the Church – takes flight.  That same Spirit continues to “blow” through today’s Church to give life and direction to our mission and ministry to preach the Gospel to every nation, to proclaim the forgiveness and reconciliation in God's name, to baptize all humanity into the life of Jesus' Resurrection.
The Spirit of God enables the Eleven – and us – to do things they could not do their own: to understand the “truth” of God’s great love for his people that is embodied in the Risen Christ, and then to boldly proclaim the Gospel of Christ.  The Spirit empowers us with the grace to do the difficult work of Gospel justice, forgiveness and compassion.
The miracle of Pentecost (Acts 2) is the Spirit’s overcoming the barriers of language and perception to open not only the minds of the Apostles’ hearers but their hearts as well to understanding and embracing the Word of God.

 The language of marriage
They met at a party.  Maria was a third-generation college senior from a Massachusetts Italian/Irish family and he was a doctoral student from Iran.  Despite their differences in just about everything, they fell in love and married.  That was 25 years and four children ago.
Their relationship has had its difficult moments, to be sure.  Bridging two such different cultures and histories and religions and languages has not been without its challenges.  As Maria writes in an essay in The Boston Sunday Globe Magazine, their life together required extraordinary sensitivity and listening:
“We muddled through some memorable ‘that’s not what I meant’ episodes that were made worse by our different cultural perspectives.  Masoud’s English was near perfect, but he was prone to word mix-ups that caused unnecessary arguments.  Once I was insulted because he called me ‘durable’ when, in fact, he was trying to tell me I was ‘adorable.’  Then, too, language is more than words.  He was raised in a Muslim culture where men and women avoid direct eye contact, but I found it disconcerting that he would not look at me when talking.
“Time and again, we resorted to rounds of bickering — ‘You Americans have no culture’ and ‘Why are you so Iranian?’ — that left hurt feelings and stirred mutual doubt about our marital compatibility.  But a marriage is more than stereotypes.  Commitment to our relationship has meant a willingness to clarify our statements to each other and learn to decipher the hidden meanings behind what the other says.
“With time, I have learned that Farsi is characterized by elaborate linguistic courtesy that generally avoids confrontation.  Masoud’s habit of answering ‘thank you’ to every request instead of a definitive ‘yes’ or ‘no’ is his way of being polite.  And gradually he has realized that my cheerful ‘American’ optimism doesn’t mean that I am always happy.”
Maria and Masoud know all too well the reality that “marriage is unpredictable and complicated, a never-ending and sometimes painstaking process of give-and-take that still allows for our cultural differences.”

[From “A Marriage’s Cultural Missteps” by Maria Olia, The Boston Globe Magazine, March 25, 2012.]
The real miracle of Pentecost (Acts 2) is one of listening:  The Spirit of God overcomes the barriers of language and perception, opening not only the crowds’ minds but their hearts to hear the word of God spoken by Peter and the Eleven.  The Spirit enables us to listen to the voice of God in the context of God’s compassion and peace, enabling us to hear what God actually speaks and not what we want or hope to hear.  As on Pentecost, God’s Spirit continues to speak in the love of the Beatitudes, in the forgiveness of the prodigal’s father, in the generosity of the Good Samaritan, in the hope of the resurrection.  God’s Spirit enables a wife and husband to love enough to listen with their hearts, to discern one another’s real meaning that is much deeper than the imperfect, imprecise words they “say” to one another.    The gift of Pentecost faith enables us to hear the voice of God speaking in the midst of the clamor and busyness, the pain and despair, of our lives, inviting us to embrace the life and love of God in our homes and hearts.
From Fr. Tony Kadavil's Collection:

“Come Holy Spirit
Make our ears to hear
Make our eyes to see
Make our mouths to speak
Make our hearts to seek
Make our hands to reach out
And touch the world with your love. AMEN.”

Speaking the same language:
Almost hundred years ago Dr. Zamenhof, a Polish linguist, constructed a new language that could be shared by people throughout the world. The artificial language Dr. Zamenhof created is called Esperanto, "the language of hope." The name signifies hope for humankind that a common language might heal the divisions that exist among the different peoples of the earth. The feast of Pentecost is the Church's celebration of her unity and universality in the Holy Spirit, and so some of the readings used express this in terms of language. Dr. Zamenhof's invention of a universal language like Esperanto has been followed by the establishment of the United Nations Assembly, by Summit meetings of the heads of nations, by cultural exchanges and by the revival of the Olympic Games. But Pentecost is more than a work of human creation, more than a work of art and music. Pentecost is a new outpouring of God's Spirit into our hearts to kindle in us the fire of his love. – (Albert Cylwicki in 'His Word Resounds')

Evangelist Billy Graham tells of a time during the early years of his preaching ministry when he was due to lead a crusade meeting in a town in South Carolina, and he needed to mail a letter. He asked a little boy in the main street how he could get to the post office. The boy gave him directions. Billy said, “If you come to the Central Baptist church tonight, I’ll tell you how to get to heaven.” The boy replied, “No thanks. You don’t even know how to get to the post office!”

The seven gifts.

1) The gift of wisdom:
Four-year-old Amanda was taken to the doctor’s office with a fever. The doctor looked in her ears and asked, "Who’s in there? Donald Duck?"
She said, "No." He looked in her open mouth, "Who’s in there? Mickey Mouse?"
Again she said, "No." He put his stethoscope on her heart and asked, "Who’s in there? Barney?"
Amanda replied, "No, Jesus is in my heart. Barney is in the pocket of my underwear."

2) The gift of understanding:
A kindergarten teacher was observing her classroom of children while they drew pictures. She would occasionally walk around to see each child's artwork. As she came to one little girl who was working diligently, she asked what the drawing was.
The girl replied, "I'm drawing God."
The teacher paused and said, "But no one knows what God looks like."
Without missing a beat, or looking up from her drawing the girl replied, "They will in a minute."

3) The gift of counsel: Just after receiving his driver’s license, a Lutheran minister’s son wanted to talk about using the family car. “I’ll make a deal with you,” his father said. “Bring your grades up, read your Bible more often, and get a haircut. Then you may use the car once or twice a week.” A month later the question came up again. “Son,” the father said, “I’m proud of you. I see you studying hard and reading your Bible every day. But you didn’t get a haircut.” After a moment’s pause, the son replied, “Yeah, I’ve thought about that. But Samson had long hair, Moses had long hair, and even Jesus had long hair.” “True,’ the father replied, “but may be you noticed that they walked wherever they went.”

4) The gift of fortitude: A mother refused to permit her little boy to go for a picnic with his classmates. On the day of the picnic, however, she changed her mind and gave him permission. But he sighed and confessed, "It's too late Mummy, I've already prayed for rain on the school picnic day!"

5) The gift of fear of God: Do not ride in automobiles: they are responsible for 20% of fatal accidents. Do not stay home: 1% of all accidents occur in home. Do not walk on the streets or sidewalks: 14% of all accidents occur at such times. Do not travel by air, rail, or water: 16% of all accidents happen on planes, trains or boats. Only .001% of all deaths occur in worship services in church, and these are usually related to previous physical disorders. Hence the safest place for you to be at any time is at church!

From Fr. Jude Botelho:

At Pentecost the Spirit breaks through all the barriers and comes dramatically with all the signs that accompany it. The Spirit comes like a mighty wind, unstoppable and unpredictable; the Spirit comes as fire that enlightens, warms and purifies; the Spirit comes in the shape of tongues descending on each of the apostles giving each one the gift of speaking, of communicating. The miracle of Pentecost is not seen only in the external signs that accompany it, but is seen in the transformation brought about in the apostles themselves. At Pentecost the apostles become fearless and face the crowds and are proud to proclaim Jesus Christ. Before Pentecost they did not understand things that Jesus explained to them, now they not only understood but they themselves were understood by people who listened to them. When they were least expecting it, the promise that Jesus gave was fulfilled. God cannot be controlled or put on our time-table. So often God is at work in our lives but we do not recognize it.
Did you ever notice the Spirit in yourself or others around you?Some days ago I asked some school children to tell me about the Holy Spirit. They told me about fire, the storm, Peter on the balcony, the languages and the baptisms in the street. When I asked them: "Did you ever notice the work of the Spirit in yourself or others around you?" No one knew what to answer. They looked at me with their large querying eyes. I changed the question. I asked them: "Did you ever do anything really good?" Again they had no answer. Again I asked: "Did your parents, father and mother, ever do anything good?" No answer. So I said: "Sit down comfortably. Close your eyes ask yourself, what good did I do?" They sat down as comfortably as they could. They closed their eyes and suddenly the answers came. One had saved a small child from a river. One had forgiven her sisters. One said: "My mother takes care of me. That is good." Another said: "My father is helping a poor man." Slowly, slowly they became aware of the good, the love, the care in their daily lives: the work of the Holy Spirit.
Joseph Donders in 'Praying and Preaching the Sunday Gospel'

In today's gospel John shows how closely the presence of the Spirit in the Church was connected with the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. The descent of the Spirit ushers in the blessing of peace, "Peace be with you! Shalom!" Secondly, the Spirit is the gift of the Father breathed on them, given to them by Jesus. It is always a gift given from the abundance of the Father, and the gift becomes valuable when we accept it with open hands and with an open heart, believing in the power of this Holy Spirit. Those who receive the gift experience the forgiveness of sins; they are healed and set free from the bondage of sin in all its varied forms. The Spirit brings reconciliation with God and we in turn are called to be instruments of peace and forgiveness towards all our brothers and sisters. By tying the gift of the Holy Spirit to Easter, the gospel emphasises that the Spirit is the gift of the Risen One, and as such conveys the benefits of His death and resurrection. The Pentecost imagery of wind and fire emphasises the replacement of the Mosaic Law by the gift of the new law of the Spirit as the basis of life for the new community gathered together and bound together by the Holy Spirit.

The important lesson
I was sitting on a beach one summer day, watching two children, a boy and a girl playing in the sand. They were hard at work, by the water's edge, building an elaborate sand castle with gates and towers and moats and internal passages. Just when they had nearly finished their project, a big wave came and knocked it down, reducing it to a heap of wet sand. I expected the children to burst into tears, devastated by what had happened to all their hard work. But they surprised me. Instead, they ran up the shore away from the water, laughing and holding hands and sat down to build another castle. I realized that they had taught me an important lesson. All the things in our lives, all our complicated structures we spend so much time and energy creating, are built on sand. Only our relationships with other people endure. Sooner or later, the wave will come along and knock down what we have worked so hard to build up. When that happens, only the person who has somebody's hand to hold will be able to laugh.
Rabbi Harold Kushner from 'Stories for a Man's Heart'

Pentecost everywhere, all the time
I was in an underground train, a crowded train in which all sorts of people jostled together, sitting and strap-hanging -workers of every description going home at the end of the day. Quite suddenly I saw in my mind, as vividly as a wonderful picture, Christ in them all. But I saw more than that: not only was Christ in everyone of them, living in them, dying in them, rejoicing in them, sorrowing in them -because He was in them and because they were here, the whole world was here too, here in this underground train: not only the world as it was at this moment, not only all the people in all the countries of the world, but all the people who had lived in the past, and all those yet to come. I came out into the street and walked for a long time in the crowds. It was the same here, on every side, in every passerby-Christ!
Caryll Houselander in 'A Rocking-horse Catholic'

The Indwelling Spirit
Rossini was an Italian who composed some beautiful music. He was once given a beautiful watch by the King of France. He was very proud of this watch because it was a royal gift. A few years after he had been given it, he showed it to a friend. His friend told him that although he had the watch for years he did not know its real value. "Impossible" said Rossini. "Lend it to me for a moment", said his friend. Taking the watch, he touched a secret spring and an inner case flew open revealing a beautiful little painting of Rossini himself. The composer had never known that the painting was there.
Anthony Castle in 'Quotes and Anecdotes'

The Spirit of Reconciliation
There were two brothers living on adjoining farms who developed a bitter conflict. It began with a small misunderstanding that grew into a major difference, and exploded into bitter exchange of words. They stopped talking to each other as well as visiting each other. One day a man came knocking at the door of John the elder brother. It was a carpenter looking for a day's work. John said, "Look across the creek at that farm. Once there was a meadow between our farms but my brother bulldozed it and now there stands a creek between us. Well, he might have done it to spite me. But I got the better of him. I have a pile of lumber in my barn and I want you to build an 8-foot tall fence so I don't have to look at his place anymore. Okay?" Meanwhile, John needed to go to town for supplies. When he returned he stood horrified because there was no fence but a bridge. And to his amazement his younger brother came across the bridge with arms outstretched. The two brothers embraced one another. Sometimes we need a third person to reconcile us. No wonder Jesus sent his Spirit to us to do that job. Peace and forgiveness are the two signs of a transformed people. Pentecost is the right time to renew our commitment to peace and forgiveness.
John Pichappilly in 'The Table of the Word'

Nourish the right Spirit

Every Sunday, a tribal from the mountain used to come to the market place along with two dogs - a white dog and a black dog. He had trained the dogs to fight on command. Every Sunday afternoon there used to be a dogfight in which the people in the market-place used to take bets. One Sunday the black dog won; another Sunday the white dog won - whichever dog won, invariably the tribal always won. His friends asked him what the secret of his winning was. He said, "I starve one and feed the other. The one I feed always wins because he is stronger." -We have two natures within us, fighting for mastery -the carnal and the spiritual nature, or the sinful and Christ-filled nature. The one we feed the most wins in the end. If we feed our spiritual nature and allow the Holy Spirit to empower us, He rules over us. But if we feed our sinful nature, the flesh rules over us. We need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. "Come Holy Spirit!"
John Rose in 'John's Sunday Homilies'


May the Spirit of Jesus fill you and bring newness into your life!

The well-known author and preacher Fred Craddock tells a rather funny story about a lecture he was giving: A few years ago, when he was on the west coast speaking at a seminary, just before the first lecture, one of the students stood up and said, "Before you speak, I need to know if you are Pentecostal." The room grew silent. Craddock said he looked around for the Dean of the seminary! He was nowhere to be found. 

The student continued with his quiz right in front of everybody. Craddock was taken aback, and so he said, "Do you mean do I belong to the Pentecostal Church?" He said, "No, I mean are you Pentecostal?" Craddock said, "Are you asking me if I am charismatic?" the student said, "I am asking you if you are Pentecostal." Craddock said, "Do you want to know if I speak in tongues?" He said, "I want to know if you are Pentecostal." Craddock said, "I don't know what your question is." The student said, "Obviously, you are not Pentecostal." He left.

What are we talking about this morning? Is the church supposed to use the word Pentecost only as a noun or can it be used as an adjective? And so I ask you: Are you Pentecostal?

In spite of the fact that the church doesn't know what the adjective means, the church insists that the word remain in our vocabulary as an adjective. The church is unwilling for the word simply to be a noun, to represent a date, a place, an event in the history of the church, refuses for it to be simply a memory, an item, something back there somewhere. The church insists that the word is an adjective; it describes the church. The word, then, is "Pentecostal." 

If the church is alive in the world it is Pentecostal. And you thought we were Methodist! [Insert your own tradition here.] 

How do we keep this aliveness, this fire burning, this spirit moving? What must exist in us, around us, and through us, if we are to be Pentecostal? Simply these three things:

1. We Are To Be Of One Accord
2. We Are To Join Together Constantly in Prayer
3. We Are To Repent

Let me begin with three quick stories. See if you can find the common thread that runs through them. 

The First Story is about a woman who lives here in Texas. She is a motivational speaker who is often asked to give the key-note address at conventions and convocations. 

Recently she returned home after speaking five nights in a row. Her husband said: "Honey, I know you must be really tired. Why don't you "sleep in" in the morning?" 

That sounded good to her, so she did stay in bed longer than usual. When she finally got up she put on an old worn-out blue robe that was frayed and faded but comfortable... and some old house-shoes that had no back to them... the kind that you have to slide your foot into them... and then slide your foot as you walk to keep them on. Then, she walked by a mirror and saw that her hair was a major disaster... so she stopped and put some of those big pink plastic rollers in her hair. That done, she headed for the kitchen. 

When she walked into the kitchen to get her morning coffee, she noticed it immediately. Her husband had forgotten to take out the trash! In that community if you didn't get your trash out on time, it was tough luck. They would not wait for you. 

So she grabbed the two big trash bags quickly and began to shuffle outside...
- pulling the heavy trash bags along the ground,
- trying to keep her worn-out robe closed by holding her arms close together,
- sliding her feet along to keep her house-shoes on,
- and sporting huge pink plastic rollers in her hair. 

Just at that moment, the garbage truck was pulling away... she shouted to the driver: "Am I too late?" And he took one look at her and replied: "No, hop on!" 

The Second Story comes from Dr. Jim Standiford, who is pastor of First United Methodist in San Diego. (FUMC, San Diego, October 31, 2004, "A Vocabulary of Faith Is What America Needs") 

When Jim first came to San Diego, he played golf a couple of times with a man named Lawson Cooke. Some months later, Jim's wife said: "Jim, you used to play golf with Lawson Cooke, but you two haven't played together for some time now. Why don't you play golf with Lawson Cooke anymore?" 

Jim replied: "Well, would you play golf with somebody who kicked his ball out of the rough into the fairway... or took a countless number of mulligans... or hit the wrong ball... or didn't write down the right score on the score card and kept hitting ball after ball into the lake?" 

She said: "No." And Jim said: "Well, Lawson Cooke wouldn't either!!!" 

The Third Story comes from a minister who put an ad in the local paper for a well-rounded handyman, who could fix things around the church and help out with routine chores. 

The very next morning after the ad ran, a well-dressed young man came and asked to speak to the minister. The pastor "sized up" the young man... and then asked him a flurry of questions: 

- Can you start a fire? "Yes Sir!" Can you have breakfast ready by 7:00 a.m. every morning? "Yes Sir!"
- Can you polish the silver and wash the dishes? "Yes Sir!"
- Can you keep things picked up and neat... and the lawn mowed? "Yes Sir!" 

And the minister continued: "And, of course, there will be electrical problems and unexpected leaking pipes and restroom overflows and... wait a minute! The young man interrupted, "I came here to make arrangements for my wedding. But if it's going to be like that, I think I'll just forget the whole thing!" 

Now, all three of these stories are humorous. They made me laugh when I first heard them... but what is even better about them (and is the common thread that runs through them and links them together)... is the fact that we know these three stories the only way we could... The people telling the stories (the motivational speaker and the two pastors) are all telling the stories on themselves. They are laughing at themselves as they tell the stories and they are doing so with obvious joy and delight. 

That is a dramatic sign of a healthy person... to have a sense of humor and to be able to laugh at yourself.

It's delightful to laugh with children at the cute and funny things they sometimes say. 

It's fun to laugh at the comical antics of circus clowns or the hilarious wit of good comedians... But, the best humor of all is when we laugh at ourselves. It's a real mark of emotional maturity. It eases our self-pity; it diminishes our pride and saves us from taking ourselves too seriously. 

Ethel Barrymore said it well. She said: "You grow up when you get your first good laugh at yourself." 

To have a good sense of be able to laugh at yourself... those are significant and dramatic signs of a healthy personality. 

Now, let's take this a little deeper and ask this question: What are the dramatic signs of a healthy faith? It's a good question to raise and think about today as we celebrate Pentecost Sunday (The Birthday of the Church)... Do we as a church family have a healthy faith? ...  
 You Are in the Spirit

It's like the story of the shark and the whale. Both were swimming in the sea when the shark swam up to the whale to engage in conversation. As they swam along, the shark said to the whale, "You are so much older than I, and wiser too. Could you tell me where the ocean is?" The whale responded, "The ocean is what you are in now." The shark would not believe it. "Come on, tell me where the ocean is so I may find it!" The whale repeated, "The ocean is here, now; you are in it." Unbelieving, the shark swam away searching for the ocean. 

The moral of the story, I believe, is this: don't spend too much time looking for God because the Spirit of God is here in the now of your life, dwelling within you, within me, within this community. And that truth is nurtured in prayer. 

Susan M. Fleenor, The Indwelling Spirit of Pentecost
The Pentecostal Spirit of Love

Today's holy solemnity puts new heart into us, for not only do we revere its dignity, we also experience it as delightful. On this feast it is love that we specially honor, and among human beings there is no word pleasanter to the ear, no thought more tenderly dwelt on, than love.

The love we celebrate is nothing other than the goodness, kindness, and charity of God; for God himself is goodness, kindness, and charity. His goodness is identical with his Spirit, with God himself.

In his work of disposing all things "the Spirit of the Lord has filled the whole world" from the beginning, "reaching from end to end of the earth in strength, and delicately disposing everything; but as sanctifier the Spirit of the Lord has filled the whole world" since Pentecost, for on this day the gracious Spirit himself was sent by the Father and the Son on a new mission, in a new mode, by a new manifestation of his mighty power, for the sanctification of every creature. 

Aelred of Rievaulx (1109-67)

A wealthy family from Massachusetts used to take a month's vacation every summer to the coast of Maine, taking their maid with them. The maid had an annual ritual at the beach. She wore an old-fashioned bathing suit, complete with a little white hat, and carried enough paraphernalia to stock Wal-Mart. She would settle herself on the beach, cover every inch of her exposed flesh and journey down to the water's edge. There she would hesitate while taking deep breaths and working up her courage to enter the icy-cold water. Finally, she would daintily extend one foot and lower it slowly into the water until she barely had her big toe submerged. Then she repeated the act with the other foot. Then, having satisfied her minimal urge for a swim, she would retreat to her chair and umbrella and spend the remainder of the vacation curled around a book.

I'm afraid that may be a parable of our Christian commitment. Are we afraid to give in to the Pentecost experience, fearful that we might lose control? That's what it is really all about, isn't it? Control. We want to be in control. Well, if Pentecost is to do nothing else, it should remind us that we are not in control, not even - or perhaps I should say especially - of ourselves.

Randy L. Hyde, Time to Deliver
They All Come Together

John Ortberg tells the story of a friend who made his first trip south of the Mason-Dixon Line from Chicago to Georgia. On his first morning in the South he went into a restaurant to order breakfast, and it seemed that every dish included something called grits...which, as my Tennessee friends tell me, is exactly the way God intended it. Not being familiar with this southern delicacy, he asked the waitress, "Could you tell me, exactly what is a grit?" Looking down on him with a mixture of compassion and condescension, she said, "Sugar, you can't get just one grit. They always come together."

John Wesley knew there was no personal holiness without social holiness, and Pulitzer Prize winner Annie Dillard says, "You can no more go to God alone than you can go to the North Pole alone." We're just like can't get just one. They come together.

John E. Harnish, Collected Sermons,

The peace Jesus gives to us through the Holy Spirit is more than we can ever imagine: 

Peace means the cessation of all warfare, but it also means much more.
Peace means a feeling of inner well-being, but it also means much more.
Peace means an end to psychological tensions, but it also means much more.
Peace means halting interpersonal conflicts, but it also means much more.
Peace means the settling of silence on the soul, but it also means much more. 

In Valyermo, California , the Benedictines converted a 400-acre ranch into a religious community called St. Andrew's Priory. As you enter the grounds, you find that the land is posted: "No Hunting Except for Peace." 

The world is hunting for peace. What will we give it?the torch of Christ's ministry with great commitment. In the story, Jesus returns to heaven after His time on earth. The angels gather around Him to learn what all happened during His days on earth. Jesus tells them of the miracles, His teachings, His death on the cross, and His resurrection.

When He finishes his story, Michael the Archangel asks Jesus, "But what happens now?" Jesus answers, "I have left behind eleven faithful disciples and a handful of men and women who have faithfully followed me. They will declare My message and express My love. These faithful people will build My church." "But," responds Michael, "What if these people fail?...What then is Your other plan?’ And Jesus answers, ‘I have no other plan!’” (1)