Readings for May 20, 2018
1 Corinthians 12:3-7, 12-13, or
John 20:19-23, or
John 15:26-27, 16:12-15
Pentecost in the Jewish tradition is a harvest festival of sorts, celebrating the “first fruits” 50 days after Passover. It is an important Jewish feast, referenced in Exodus (23:16), Leviticus (23:26), Numbers (28:26), and Deuteronomy (16:10) whereby everyone in the Jewish community gathers together to offer the harvest at the temple. Bible scholars note that Jesus offers himself at Passover and then, after his ascension, uses the time when many are gathered in Jerusalem to send the Holy Spirit upon the apostles so that they can begin to carry out their ministry. In so doing, Jesus fulfills the law (an offering of himself as the “first fruits”) and gathers the nation together as one (when all heard the apostles speaking in their own language). Impeccable timing, though not altogether surprising from the God Who created the world from a formless void.
There is no scriptural account that says the apostles were celebrating the feast along with the rest of Jerusalem. It seems they only stayed in town because Jesus told them to do so prior to his ascension. They were scared (again), huddled together in a locked room (again), feeling a bit lost (again), and not sure what was going to happen next (again). If ever a group of men needed a spiritual boost of confidence, this group was first in line. If the Church was going to get started, they needed the Holy Spirit to light the fire. Cue the raucous wind, bring on the tongues of fire, and BAM! These world-fearing men became God-fearing men and spilled out of their locked room and into the streets and started proclaiming the good news.
Wouldn’t it be nice if, you know, maybe I had the same thing happen to me?
I did. As an infant, my parents blessed me by having me baptized, conferring upon me the gifts of the Holy Spirit. At my confirmation, I was sealed for Christ with those same gifts. Like any gift, however, I need to receive it and use it to make it the gift it was intended to be. If I get tickets to a baseball game from my children for Father’s Day but do not go to the game, the gift goes to waste. In the same manner, if I fail to use the gifts of the Spirit conferred upon me and sealed within me, they go to waste. Like the toddler at his first birthday, sometimes I seem to only play with the boxes, tossing the gifts aside while distracted by the colorful paper and ribbons.
God lays His gifts at my feet but allows me to choose whether or not I use them. On my own, I can huddle in a room with a few other scared friends. On my own, I can live by the flesh, dying when the flesh dies. With the Spirit, I can leave my fears and proclaim His Word boldly. And with the Spirit, I can gain eternal life.
I’ve been given the gifts. It’s on me to accept and use them. All for the glory of God.
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful and kindle in them the fire of Your love. Send forth Your gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. Lord, send us Your Spirit and You will renew the face of the earth.