Grace to you and Happy Pentecost Sunday!
Permit me to begin today’s reflection with a popular story about a renowned Geometrician, which was narrated by Plutarch, a Greek Philosopher: At the peak of the discovery of science of mathematics among the Greeks, a prominent Geometrician of the Pythagorean school, bragged of his ability to make any figure, no matter how crooked or twisted, stand at an upright position. All it takes, he claimed, was getting the proper right angel combination (90 degrees) and harmonizing this with the force of gravity. He achieved much success in doing this, until a particular day when a smart student challenged him to make a corpse to stand erect.
The great geometrician did not see any difficulty in doing this. He started by trying various schemes of balancing, experimenting with different postures and exploring all possible combinations of angles, which, under normal circumstances, should give 90 degrees; therefore, make the dead body stand erect. He compassed, for example 45/45, 50/40, 89/1, 70/20, but it was all a failure. He tried again and again, all to no avail. At last, he threw in the towel with the exclamation: “I do not know what is wrong with this figure; there seems to be something missing on the inside.”
The acknowledgement of this geometrician and his submission of his limitations are didactic. Imagine a human being without a soul—that spiritual principle, which is the subject of our consciousness and freedom. This would be unthinkable, because, without the soul, all we see is a dead body. Hence, even one of the greatest mathematicians of ancient time couldn’t make “life” in the dead body. The dead can’t stand on their own. Only those alive could stand, walk, choose and act. In fact, we can become the best we are called to be on earth and as the Palmist says, “praise God” because we are alive to do so.
When the French spiritual writer, Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard (1858-1935), wrote his classic, The Soul of the Apostolate, he was inviting us to take seriously the Interior Life, the life of the Spirit. He was equally alluding to the presence of the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, in the Church. The Holy Spirit is the “soul of the apostolate” for good reasons, since, through the grace of our Lord Jesus and the providence of the Father, we are granted the continuing presence of Christ, the head of the Church, through the Holy Spirit. One can’t imagine a church not being led by the Holy Spirit.
The coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost was to commission the Church and all members of the Church to become “missionary disciples,” using the phrase of Pope Francis. So we become witnesses of the Risen Lord to all. Hence, on Pentecost Day, the Church was born, a Church whose primary vocation on earth is to evangelize. As Pope Paul VI emphasized, “Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity” (Pope Evangelii Nuntiandi, 14).
The Holy Spirit is the livewire of the Church, the soul of virtuous/spiritual life. And today, we celebrate that historic birthday of the Church on Pentecost.
[For my reflection on the significance of the Pentecost click here]
At Pentecost, souls dead in sin are revived; a new encounter that makes us stand upright as disciples of Jesus Christ is witnessed.
At Pentecost, a timid person, like Peter, who denied Jesus before a slave girl (John 18:25-27), becomes a bold preacher before a multitude. The Holy Spirit breaks the barriers of fear, insecurity and cowardice.
At Pentecost, a withdrawn, insecure and shy apostolic community, locked up in the upper room (Acts 1:13ff), stands out in eloquence, speaking in tongues, and testifying about the wonders of the Risen Lord. They became evangelizers (Acts 2ff). The Holy Spirit makes the Church a bold vanguard of the truth, and believers, audacious emissaries of the Good News.
At Pentecost, miracles, healing and deliverance are wrought. In the same way, the Holy Spirit goes on doing signs and wonders for those who welcome Him in their lives. “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”
At Pentecost, the fire of love is kindled (Acts 2:3). The Holy Spirit shatters the shackles of hatred, exploitation and unholy relationships and promotes a true relationship of love among people. Pure love for God and one another is by the Holy Spirit.
At Pentecost, the community is bonded in love, obedience and eagerness to relive the Christ experience, and the Tower of Babel reality is upturned. No better explanation is given that men and women, from different tongues and nation, could speak one language of love, live in love, share from the same cup and participate at the same table; if not, by the bonding impact of the Holy Spirit.
Because the Church is sustained and invigorated by the Holy Spirit, the gift of the Father through the Son, the Eucharist, is our special grace of communion where all races are invited to share from the same plate and the same chalice. The Holy Spirit-lead-Church is a church wherein space, locality, or structures isn’t a barrier. Rather, all become vehicles of orderliness through which the unity of faith and the bond of love blossom. As the Psalmist says, it’s like olive branches around the table of the Lord (Ps 128:3).
We therefore pray: Come Holy Spirit and fill the hearts of the faithful. Enkindle in us the fire of your love. Amen.
[Pentecost Sunday A: Acts 2:1-11; I Cor 12:3B-7; 12-13; Jn 20:19-23]
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.