May 11, 2008 Year A
Reflections on the Readings
By Dennis Hankins
Theme: Nine O'clock in the Morning!
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (I Corinthians 12:7)
It occurred about 9:00 o'clock in the morning. But before we get to that let us recall that Tradition held that the Law was given on this Day. You remember. It was Moses who came down from the mountain after 40 days in the presence of God. He was carrying back the Commandments, written by the finger of God on tablets of stone. The Israelites waiting for his return at the base of the Mount, observed Moses' face shining because God, who is Light, permitted a little of his glory to linger on the face of Moses.
About 120 have huddled together in the same Upper room in which Jesus had last met with his disciples. They included the 12, 'Matthias having been enrolled with the eleven' and Mary, the mother of Jesus and some of his cousins. By commandment of the Lord, they have remained in Jerusalem waiting for the promise of the Father, which he said, "you heard from me, for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit."
And now on this morning, the morning of the 10th day since Jesus ascended into heaven they are gathered at the Jewish prescribed hour of prayer. It's 9:00 o'clock in the morning and 'a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.' Tongues as of fire rested on each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:2-4)
Devout Jews from every nation under heaven hear the sound of this mighty wind and come together to see what's going on. And to their astonishment they hear these Galileans 'telling in their own tongues the mighty works of God.' This demonstrates that the 'manifestation of the Spirit' is given for the common good. And what follows is Peter's Spirit filled explanation of what everyone is witnessing. Peter illumines his hearers not only about the promise of the Spirit fulfilled among them but also about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. The result is about three thousand souls believe and are baptized and added to their number.
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit birthed the Church; and the power of the Spirit infuses the Church with the resurrected life of Jesus. In the world the Church is the incarnation of Jesus. Just as Jesus is God incarnated in human flesh, through the Spirit the Church becomes the incarnation of Jesus. Through the sacraments of the Church we enter into the fullness of Jesus. As Saint Irenaeus states: "where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God; where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church and all grace" (Adv. Haer. III, 24, 1). The 120 were the first fruits of redeemed humanity. Additionally, the 3,000 were the result of the first evangelization of the early Church.
Today we pray as Blessed Pope John XXIII prayed for Vatican II, `O Holy Spirit, sent by the Father in the Name of Jesus...Renew Thy Wonders in this our day, as by a new Pentecost!' This theme was continued by Pope John Paul II when he spoke to us of a 'new evangelization and 'new springtime' for the Church. In his homily at St. Patrick's Cathedral, His Holiness Benedict XVI said, "…let us implore from God the grace of a new Pentecost for the Church in America." Exhorting the Bishops, Seminarians and Religious before him he said, "The proclamation of life, life in abundance, must be at the heart of the new evangelization." Then he concluded his homily by speaking of a new springtime in the Spirit for the Church in America.
In today's Gospel we read of the Spirit's power to forgive sins. This is the ministry of reconciliation Jesus imparts to his disciples as he breathes on them. We need not only to forgive the wrongs we have suffered, but we ask for forgiveness for the wrongs we have inflicted, for the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
As Jesus continues to breathe on his Church it is our prayer that he breathes on us and in us mightily, as a rushing wind. It is the prayer of recent popes and now Pope Benedict XVI that the Church be renewed in and filled with the Holy Spirit. No less than 19 times, Pope Benedict spoke of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in his Homily at Nationals Stadium. We must in this Octave of Pentecost and beyond expectantly ask for the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Do we dare hesitate to ask that the fire of His love be kindled in each of us? Today as at that first Pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Spirit let us boldly pray, "Come Holy Spirit."
We have yet to walk in the fullness of Christian unity that only the Spirit can bring about. Our times call for what Pope Benedict calls "a fresh, spiritual way of thinking" inspired by the words of Paul who spoke of being renewed in the spirit of our mind. (Ephesians 4:23) Our spiritual formation also includes a "moral" conversion. It is the Spirit of holiness that moves us to ask for purity of heart and mind. And it is the same Holy Spirit who will perfect us to have a body like Christ's own glorious body on that day of the beatific vision.
Let us pray: Dear Jesus every hour I need you. May I be full of the Holy Spirit not only at 9:00 o'clock in the morning, but also at Noon and at 3:00 o'clock. Even in the night seasons may the prayer of my heart be, "Fill me Holy Spirit and enkindle in me the fire of your love. AMEN.