Reflection - Pentecost Sunday 2021
Today we celebrate ‘the birthday of the Church’. With Pentecost, God’s plan from the creation of the world to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Jerusalem on the peoples of the world is fulfilled.
From the beginning of the book of Genesis, we read of God’s initiative in creation. Then God calls Abraham to follow him, to trust God – the beginning of salvation history. And so it goes. The God of Israel intervenes with the people, chastising, teaching, but always leading them into a deeper relationship. The Hebrew bible informs us: through their ups and downs, they continue to learn about the nature of God and about themselves.
A nature made in the image of God yet flawed like a diamond.
Pentecost is also the culmination of God’s plan. Jesus has lived, died and ascended. He is now in glory and power - sitting at the Father’s right hand – the place of honour.
The New Testament reveals the promises Jesus made, that he would send an Advocate, a helper, to the small community he had gathered around him who would have such power as to make his message known throughout the world. And so it has happened!
The Holy Spirit who came down on the disciples in Jerusalem, announcing that holy presence in symbolic terms of wind and fire, is still alive and active in the Church, what the outstanding apostle, Paul, called ‘the body of Christ’.
The presence of the Holy Spirit did not solve the problems faced by the Church then or now but the promise of being guided and comforted is assuring.
John’s gospel this Sunday informs us of two important features of the Advocate: the relationship between Jesus, the Spirit, and the Father, also the role of the Advocate in the search for truth.
As people of faith, we seek to interpret the events of the world through Christian eyes, based on the example of Jesus himself and the long tradition of the Church which documents triumphs and failures. In hindsight the activity of the Holy Spirit is clear but in the present, we live by faith.
Worth thinking about is the relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Eventually, theologians came up with the notion of the Trinity to explain the nature of our God. This closeness, togetherness is worth pondering. If the innermost reality of God is community, how is it that we express our faith in a highly individual way? History explains how our individualistic habits developed; we need to re-connect with each other but it will be counter-cultural to our Western society.
Secondly, the role of the Advocate in the search for truth.
We live in a world of a new phenomenon, ‘fake news’. Pilate asked a rhetorical question – ‘what is truth?’. This is a most important and serious question needing an answer. How will the Church defend ‘truth’?
The painter Georges Braques’ comment is worth keeping before us these days: Truth exists, only lies are invented.
Columban Fr Gary Walker is currently living at the Columban house in Sandgate, Brisbane.