It should not be a surprise that God likes to throw us off balance. Popular wisdom says that if you want to make God laugh, just tell God what your plans. We see this reality expressed throughout the Bible, and in the lives of so many of the saints. Indeed, if we were really honest with ourselves, we all could make this same statement in our own lives. Even one small decision or event can change the entire direction of our lives. Perhaps the clearest example of this is found in the Solemnity which we celebrate this weekend: Pentecost.
The disciples and other associates of Jesus are assembled together in the room where they have been staying since Passover. The past 43 days have been filled with turmoil, confusion, bitter moments and times of great joy. In clear though various ways, they experienced the Resurrected Christ over a period of 40 days. Again, in some dramatic way they were aware of Jesus taking his final leave from them in the Ascension. We expect that the disciples experienced some real sense of emptiness. Jesus is gone now but not really, and he is coming back, but they didn’t know when. This period of days between the Ascension and the Pentecost must have taken them back to the emotional chasm of Good Friday. Jesus is gone – again!
This morning they are greatly disturbed, not in a negative way, but in a way that they never imagined or expected. They are overwhelmed with the power of the Holy Spirit. How exactly they experienced what they later reflected upon in their preaching and writing we do not know. Other than the account in the Acts about the earthquake and the tongues of fire, we know nothing else of what happened in that room. What is left for us is their understanding of those experiences. That Jesus promised them that they would receive the Paraclete is certain. It is a promise that we have seen through the instructions of Jesus at the Last Supper. As with the resurrection, they did not exactly know what to expect. The word paraclete (rendered advocate in Latin) basically means a lawyer; someone who will speak on their behalf before the authorities. If the disciples were expecting a knock at a door what they got was the door literally being blown off its hinges.
While Jesus, through his teaching, the Paschal events, and instruction to the disciples after the resurrection had prepared the disciples for what was to come, they cannot comprehend the depth of their mission until they are overpowered by the Holy Spirit.
Overwhelming it was! These disciples have the sudden courage to leave their rooms and go even to the Temple precincts to proclaim that Jesus is Lord, is itself testimony to the dramatic action which has happened in their lives.
What the apostles quickly understood has remained for us a mystery: that we cannot contain the Holy Spirit. While the apostles did not fully grasp what they had gotten themselves into, the Holy Spirit guided and directed them in ways they could never imagine. The Holy Spirit’s fire-power overwhelmed their thoughts and actions. The curious crowd understood less about the Holy Spirit than did they, yet these people quickly saw the fruit of the work: they understood in ways that to them seemed unimaginable – each heard in their native language; this lead 3,000 of them to be baptized that day.
The Spirit continues to speak to us – in our own language – in so many varied ways. All we need now it to let go and allow the Holy Spirit to set us to the work which has been prepared for us.
Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.[[In-content Ad]]