Reflection by Aidan Troy
Pentecost started with fear – doors locked for fear of the same fate as Jesus. Locks on their hearts were also securely fastened. Jesus utters the unimaginable in these circumstances – ‘Peace be with you’. He then gives them the key to who He is – “showed them his hands and his side.”
Fear is dispelled and ‘the disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord.’ Then he missions them – ‘as the Father sent me, so am I sending you.’ What a range of emotions and an amazing turnabout in their lives. The locks are off their hearts as well as from the tightly closed doors. Then ‘he breathed on them and said, ‘receive the Holy Spirit.’
It must have taken the Apostles and Mary some time to absorb what they had just come through. It’s wonderful what God can do. The key is that God always comes to us as we are and not as I might like to be. For the arrival of a visitor, I try to have all neat and tidy. God doesn’t wait for the tidying up.
At the first Pentecost, fear was the feature. How am I, how are we, this Pentecost? Where am I, where are we on the journey? These influence how we receive God’s Spirit as it did those first disciples. God finds me as I am, and this is how I will think of Him, and will influence how I love Him.
If rigid about the gender of God, we may squirm at any female traits attributed to God – such as God not forgetting us any more than a Mother would forget her child. Even if she should – God will not. On the other hand, for reasons of personal history or outlook, we may struggle with God being described as our ‘Father’.
Pentecost does something new. The issue is not the gender of God – but the Spirit of God. The Spirit is not so much for debate as for action. We have an Advocate, a Counsellor, a Paraclete, a giver of Gifts beyond anyone we could have imagined.
Pentecost is the feast when we are shown God from inside the life of the Trinity. No longer do I stand outside looking in at God and wondering. Now, I am invited into the life of God and shown the intimate relationship between the Father and the Son that is the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God comes to live and work in us.
When I was growing up, we had no Holy Spirit! We had a Holy Ghost. That had its problems because at that time ghost stories were popular; they still scared us long after childhood. The change to Spirit from Ghost helped me to grasp a little better that a heartbeat of God’s love is pounding inside me making me strong when I am weak and helping me to combat loneliness when I feel terribly alone. The Spirit isn’t a visitor when I am good; the Spirit is God in me always.
The Spirit besides being a personal presence, is also at the heart of all who gather in Jesus’ name. When we don’t know, it is the Spirit who guides and leads us to where Jesus wishes. Like the powerful wind from heaven at the first Pentecost, we never know where this wind will blow or will take us. That is why the Spirit does not have a statue in their honour. The lovely image of a dove that today will adorn those to receive Confirmation today is the nearest we get.
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love. Alleluia!