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The Feast of Pentecost - The Spirit is alive and well in our world today
"Rivers of living water will flow from within him who believes in me"
This Sunday marks the Feast of the Pentecost, taking place exactly 50 days on the heels of Easter and largely considered the birthday of the dynamic and ever-evolving Church that we know today.
With vivid images of wind and fire, it is on this cornerstone day of the church, one in which the Holy Spirit was poured forth from God upon a world in dire need of such grace, that our earthly understanding of the Holy Trinity comes to fruition. It was this Holy Spirit that, when literally "breathed" into a group of frightened, beleaguered and demoralized Apostles, galvanized them in their efforts to change the world through their tireless witness and discipleship to God and their friend Jesus. But it was only through their faith and openness to receiving this great gift that they were able to go on to complete their mission.
And so it goes for us.
All throughout the New Testament, the message is loud and clear. Salvation is a gift offered to each and every child of God. In today's 1st Reading (Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11), the Jews were astounded by the Apostles ability to speak in different tongues despite their unfamiliarity with the languages they were speaking. There are many different Biblical interpretations as to the symbolism of such an amazing phenomenon, but perhaps it was meant to once again re-enforce this prevailing, hope inspiring New Testament decree: Salvation through a personal relationship with God and His Son Jesus is a gift offered to each and every child of God regardless of their place of origin, background, race, creed or place in society. God has a short memory as it relates to our faults and shortcomings....thank goodness. Language barriers or ingrained cultural traditions should not get in the way of our desire to love our neighbor as ourselves and to spread the gift of faith through our actions, just as Jesus asked us to in the Readings from just a few weeks ago.
In Paul's first Letter to the Corinthians, he explains to them that "to each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit." As members of the Church we in turn make up the body of the Church, and it is our responsibility to find our role in a thriving church community and contribute as we can. We are truly one body, and as Paul goes on to further illustrate, "as a body is one though it has many parts, and all of 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." Yet more evidence of a God that stresses inclusion, harmony and tolerance, all of these attributes only attainable through the gift of the Holy Spirit that breathes within us. But we must accept the Holy Spirit of our own free will, and this is a life long journey full of ups and downs, triumphs and setbacks, joy and pain.
This week I attended a kick-off meeting at my parish for the RCIA Program. For those of you unfamiliar with the acronym, RCIA stands for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and it is the process through which interested adults and older children are gradually introduced to the Roman Catholic faith and way of life. As each volunteer took turns introducing themselves, talking about what their faith meant to them, their vision for the program and other elements of simple conversation, it was very interesting to note how virtually every team member spoke of the Holy Spirit in their lives and how it permeated their thoughts and actions. They each had a calm yet very poignant sense of self-awareness of their lives in the context of the Holy Spirit, which obviously served as their road-map in dealing with life's daily routine. What was equally interesting was the large number of people in the room who themselves had recently gone though the program and were now poised to share their epiphany, serving in the role of sponsor and program directors as a means of giving back and sharing in the great joy of faith as they experienced it.
These people get it. These people are filled with the Holy Spirit.
So as we continue our Spiritual Journey, buoyed by this pivotal day in our Church's History, it's a great time to reflect on the gift of the Holy Spirit and the role it plays in how we live our lives. It's a gift that is given to everyone through God's immense grace and the love that Jesus imparted upon us during His short but incredible life on Earth. We must continue to foster it in our own lives if we are to reach our full potential as true witnesses to God in everything we do.