One of the toughest jobs at Mass on Pentecost Sunday is to get someone to read the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles. Many people are afraid of stumbling over the unfamiliar place names that we find there. By the time they get to “Phrygia and Pamphylia” most readers are pleased that the end is in sight.
On that day of Pentecost the people from all over the Mediterranean world heard the apostles preaching in their own language. This is amazing to everybody. How did this happen? Because of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit empowers the apostles with the gifts they need to tell the story of Jesus.
When Jesus started his preaching in Nazareth he chose to read the piece from Isaiah that says “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me”. Jesus was empowered by the Holy Spirit to carry on his mission.
Today the Spirit is empowering us in the Church to tell the story of Jesus to everyone.
After the apostles told the story of Jesus, many people believed and came together as a community.
It is not surprising that the Spirit continues the same work here on earth to bring us together to build communion irrespective of the difficulties.
Just as the barrier of language was overcome on Pentecost Sunday so too will other differences of background, culture, religion and history be overcome with the help of the Holy Spirit.
As we strengthen our faith by listening to the reading from the Scriptures, we are in a better position to view our world situation. We can look at the big pictures of migration, economic imbalance, ecological devastation, greed and corruption through a more hopeful lens.
Faced with these problems we can wonder about the future of the human race and our world. However our belief in God, our belief in the Holy Spirit, is a firm basis for hope. Empowered by the Spirit we can go on and work with the Spirit to make the world a better place. We can see migrants not just as strangers. We can hope that the world will wake up to climate change and we can work to overcome the gap between the rich and the poor.
Today people are wondering about the future of the church here in Australia and New Zealand. In Australia, many people have participated in the early phases of the Plenary Council process. Some are hopeful of a positive outcome and others are wondering what can possibly come out of it. From a purely human perspective there are good reasons not to expect too much. However we are talking about the Church and the Holy Spirit!
I am sure there were plenty of ‘wise people’ at the time of the Acts of the Apostles who were confident that this small bunch of people from Galilee were not going to go anywhere. However, we have a Church today because they allowed themselves to be led by the Holy Spirit. God has not changed. God still loves every human being on this planet. God still wants to use this band of followers of Jesus that we call the Church, to carry on the mission.
So, what is our mission from God? Our job as Church is to tell the story of God’s love.
Our mission as a Columban family is the same. To tell the story of God’s love to the people in the countries where the Spirit has led us.
May all of us be blessed and gifted by the Spirit in this season of Pentecost.
Fr Trevor Trotter