Pentecost Sunday – June 12 2011
Beginnings and Endings
(Fr Turlough Baxter – Diocesan Delegate, Ardagh & Clonmacnoise)
For fifty days we have been keeping up the momentum of the Easter Season, continuing to awaken within ourselves the story of those first Christians who encountered the Risen Lord and coming to a greater awareness of our role as witnesses of that resurrection in the world in which we live.
In listening to St John’s Gospel this Sunday, we are returned to that Easter Day and the feel of freshness for those disciples as they met with the Lord after his Resurrection. His words to them are, ‘Peace be with you’ and then breathing on them said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’. In the Acts of the Apostles this gifting of the Spirit arrives with much more drama and acclaim in the form of, wind, noise and fire. In both cases however, its reception is held within a community context, they were all in the ‘upper room’ when the Spirit came. Maybe this can help us to see how that Spirit dwells in our lives.
As St Paul tells us, ‘There is a variety of gifts but always the same Spirit, there are all sorts of service to be done, but always to the same Lord; working in all sorts of different ways in different people. It is the same God who is working in all sorts of different ways in different people; it is the same God who is working in all of them.’
Community and communion lie at the core of this feast of Pentecost and also at the heart of the preparation for the International Eucharistic Congress to be held in Dublin next June. It’s theme, The Eucharist: Communion with Christ and with one another, lets us see that our journey of faith is not one to be taken in isolation but just like those first followers of the Lord, a pathway taken in fellowship and community. Again in the words of St Paul, ‘Just as a human body, though it is made up of many parts, is a single unit… though many… we form one body’
It is at Easter that our unity into that one body becomes real through Baptism. It is here that we first received the Spirit into our lives. Maybe our experience of the Holy Spirit is not as powerful as we heard of in the Acts of the Apostles. When we hear of those images of the Spirit coming in the Scriptures, and in other cases when we hear of how some can speak with certainty of that presence in their lives, we may find it harder to recognize within ourselves.
The sequence we hear today, however, lets us see another more gentle approach, where it says; ‘Heal our wounds, our strength renew, on our dryness pour thy dew.’ That image of dew offers another way of experiencing the Spirit in our lives. For just as the dew falls on the ground each night and most times goes unnoticed, so too with the Spirit, while its presence may not always attract attention, however it is faithfully there, always renewing itself. As it ‘Melts the frozen, warms the chill, guides the steps that goes astray’.
Maybe this period of preparation for the Eucharistic Congress is a time to recognize some of those aspects of our faith that can so often go unnoticed, like that dew on the grass each dawn. Over these next few months we have an opportunity to value and deepen our faith, most of all in what sustains us as a community and that is the Eucharist.The prayer for the Congress expresses this desire as it says, ‘ May your Spirit inflame our hearts, enliven our hope and open our minds, so that together with our sisters and brothers in faith we may recognize you in the Scriptures and in the breaking of bread’.
Today we may be marking the end of one liturgical season but it also is a beginning, a new opportunity to live the gifts of the Holy Spirit in each day of our lives.
Four stages of pastoral preparation have been marking this two year lead up to the Congress. The final stage that begins next spring takes this feast of Pentecost as its symbol. It marks the call to mission because it is the Holy Spirit that transforms us into a Missionary Church. Many people from ‘every nation’ will be coming to Ireland for June 2012. In a sense it will be a reminder of that first Pentecost day in Jerusalem. As these pilgrims return home they will be invited to take with them some of the spirit of communion that they will experience while here. Our own National Congress at Knock on June 25th (two weeks time), and our diocesan gathering on the following day, will help to break the ground for the work that the Holy Spirit wants to do in us during the coming year.
Let us too take up that call as expressed also in the Eucharistic Congress prayer, ‘May your Holy Spirit transform us into one body and lead us to walk humbly on the earth, in justice and love, as witnesses of your resurrection’. Or as expressed in the Eucharistic Prayer, ‘May all of us who share in the body and blood of Christ be brought together in unity by the Holy Spirit’.
Prayer of the Faithful
United as a community by the gift of the Holy Spirit let us make our prayer known to the Lord, that God’s Spirit may renew us and the face of the earth.
1. That all who have been baptised may recognize the Spirit’s presence active in their lives. Lord, hear us.
2. May the glory of God be seen by an increase in justice and peace among all peoples. Lord, hear us.
3. For those who feel their lives have been dried out by disappointment, that the Holy Spirit may give a renewal to their lives. Lord, hear us.
4. For all who are sick or in need of healing, that they will experience the gifts of the Spirit out pouring into their lives. Lord, hear us.
5. For our journey towards the International Eucharistic Congress next year, that we may come to a greater awareness of the nourishment the Eucharist gives to our lives. Lord, hear us
6. For all who have died, that the promises revealed to us by the Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection, maybe theirs. Lord, hear us.
God of glory, giver of all good gifts, hear these, the prayers we express to you on this day. Open our hearts to welcome your Holy Spirit into your lives and let us always rejoice with Easter hope in our lives.We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.