The day that will mark the birthday of the church has come, but no one knows what to expect. It will not begin with a gentle breeze but with a violent wind. What happens next will transform the lives of the apostles and send them where they would not have chosen to go. Tongues of fire settle on their heads and redirect their powers of speech so that all who hear them understand. The crowd responds not with belief but with bewilderment. How can these Galileans address people from many lands and be understood? Their words of power can change lives. Should the people bow in awe or sneer?
Let us imagine ourselves in that crowd of people torn between devotion and disbelief. What would it be like to hear for the first time of Jesus Christ, who died, is risen, and will come again? Would we accept this awesome revelation or demand logical answers to our incredulous questions? Would our response to the coming of the Holy Spirit be doubtful or full of delight?
This event reminds us of how great the leap of faith really is. The revelation we are inclined to take for granted ought to evoke both fear and trembling. Faith is a gift that defied understanding on the part of these first Christians and that still takes us beyond what our eyes can see or our ears hear. The message conveyed at Pentecost penetrated the barriers erected by doubt, and from that moment that message changed the world.
Come, Holy Spirit, illumine our minds with the light of faith. Draw us past perplexity so that we are led to ponder our personal calling and be enkindled by your love. Amen.
This week’s readings remind us of the powerful role of God’s Spirit. For many Christians, the Holy Spirit is the person of the Trinity we understand the least. In the book of Acts, the Spirit empowers the apostles on Pentecost to speak in other languages and, in so doing, initiates the establishment and missional reach of the church to the wider world. The psalmist uses a wordplay on ruach, the Hebrew word for breath or spirit, to teach us that God’s Spirit was present at Creation and is necessary for the ongoing survival of all life. Paul writes that God’s Spirit confirms that we are children of God and can approach God with confidence, not fear. Even the disciples feel uncertain about what will happen when Jesus leaves, so John provides Jesus’ assurance that God will remain with them and with us through the presence of the Holy Spirit
Read Acts 2:1-21. How often do you take solace in praying in private? Or are you more inclined to move to take action in the public square without praying first? Which site is the more comfortable for you?
Read Psalm 104:24-34, 35b. Where have you seen evidence of nature’s resources being spent? How can you help?
Read Romans 8:22-27. How consequential is it to you to acknowledge that God prays for us and the world? Why?
Read John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15. What instructions do you wish Jesus had left for you?
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