The Holy Spirit is a Spirit of Transformation, Unity, Peace, and Forgiveness

Pentecost Sunday

Acts 2:1-11

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.”

1 Corinthians 12:3B-7, 12-13

Brothers and sisters: No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.

John 20:19-23

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

The whole Church rejoices in jubilation with resounding “Alleluia’s” and “happy birthdays” as we celebrate Pentecost this week. The moment when Jesus emerges through the locked doors of the “house where the disciples had met” is equally triumphant as it is shocking (Jn 20:19). This reminds me of the scene in “The Avengers: Endgames” (2019) when all the “disappeared” Avengers miraculously emerge from portals opening up all over the battlefields in the final and ultimate contest between good and evil. Both scenarios defy human logic: modern science tells us that it is almost impossible for mortals to return from the dead, walk through locked doors or appear out of thin air from another dimension. The breaking through of doors, or portals in the movie, is definitely not the “endgame” but what follows. At the end, the Avengers triumph over Thanos, the villain, despite fear, doubt or personal concerns; they persevere in their mission and push toward their final goal of saving humanity as a united body. Upon receiving the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ disciples are also commissioned to bring the good news to the world, that is, to bring the gifts of transformation, unity, peace, and forgiveness to the ends of the world.

This week’s readings highlight the unique qualities of the Holy Spirit. In the first reading, we witness how the Spirit transforms and renews: the Spirit comes crashing down onto the Apostles “like the rush of a violent wind”; appearing as “divided tongues … of fire” (Acts 2:2-3). This fire has sparked in their hearts and minds a renewed courage and determination to proclaim the Risen Christ and “God’s deeds of power” (Acts 2:11). This fire is so powerful that it melts away their resistance that is rooted in fear and has transformed them into evangelization “machines”, immediately speaking “in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability”, reaching out to people of all nations (Acts 2:4). After being touched by the Holy Spirit, they are empowered to bring the good news to all. Indeed, God “send[s] forth [His] Spirit “ to “renew the face of the earth” (Ps 104:30).

The second reading demonstrates how the Spirit not only brings “varieties of gifts” but more importantly, it brings unity. St. Paul explains that though there are varieties of “gifts”, “services”, and “activities”, it is the same “Spirit”, “Lord” and “God who activates all of them in everyone” (1Cor 12:4-6). All those who have been baptized are baptized into the one body of Christ, and “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1Cor 12:7). Whether our gift is speaking or listening; walking or running; writing or interpreting; creating or fixing; giving or receiving; sowing or harvesting, we are one in Christ and are “all made to drink of the one Spirit” (1 Cor 12:13).

Finally, John’s account of the Pentecost event reveals that the Holy Spirit is a Spirit of peace and forgiveness. In the early days after Jesus’ death, the disciples lived in “fear of the Jews” behind locked doors (Jn 20:19). Yet, Christ’s presence among them dispels all their fears. The first thing Jesus offers to his disciples is a profound “Peace be with you” (Ibid). Then, Jesus also sends them on a mission, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you”; to proclaim forgiveness and reconciliation, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (Jn 20: 21,23).

“No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.” “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!”‘ This knowledge of faith is possible only in the Holy Spirit: to be in touch with Christ, we must first have been touched by the Holy Spirit. He comes to meet us and kindles faith in us. By virtue of our Baptism, the first sacrament of the faith, the Holy Spirit in the Church communicates to us, intimately and personally, the life that originates in the Father and is offered to us in the Son. (CCC 683)

When we received the Holy Spirit through the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, we, too, have been transformed and renewed, and are gifted with unity, peace, and forgiveness. The Spirit in us opens our hearts to God’s love so that we may become living signs of this love in the world.

Posted: June 9, 2019

Susanna Mak

Susanna深信,信仰需要在日常生活中顯露出來,尤其是當與別人相處時,需要分擔對方所面對的困境、抉擇和挑戰。她有着很多不同的身份:女兒、姐姐、朋友、姨姨、妻子、老師、校牧、終身學習者和偶爾替《生命恩泉》寫作的作者。在每一個身份當中, 她努力為天主的愛和希望作見証。 她在多倫多擔任高中教師近二十年,擁有英語、學生讀寫能力、青年領袖活動、校牧組等經驗。 她是多倫多大學商業和英語學士,教育學士,亞省Athabasca大學綜合研究碩士,以及擁有多倫多大學Regis學院神學研究碩士證書。她對於成為《生命恩泉》寫作團隊的一份子, 深感榮幸。 Susanna has a deep conviction that faith needs to be manifested in daily life, particularly, in one’s encounters with others as well as amidst dilemmas, choices, and challenges. She strives to be a living sign of God’s love and hope as a daughter, sister, friend, aunt, wife, teacher, chaplain, life-long learner, and occasional writer for FLL. She has been a high school teacher in Toronto for almost 20 years, with experiences in English and literacy, youth leadership initiatives, the Chaplaincy Team, to mention a few. She has a B. Comm, B.A. in English, and a B. Education from University of Toronto, an M.A. in Integrated Studies from Athabasca University, and a Graduate Certificate of Theological Studies from Regis College, U of T. She is humbled by the opportunity to be part of the FLL Writing Team.

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