Graces given by the Spirit in order to build up a community
Acts. 2:1-11; I Cor. 12:3b-7, 12-13; Jn 20:19-23
A children’s catechism class was learning the Apostles Creed. Each child had been assigned a sentence to repeat. The first one said, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” The second child said, “I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son…” When he had completed his sentence, there was an embarrassing silence. Finally, one child piped up, “Teacher, the boy who believes in the Holy Spirit isn’t here.”
There was a boy riding on his bike outside a church. The priest saw him and told him to come into the church and the boy said,”… But they’ll steal my bike.” The priest explained how the Holy Spirit would take care of it, so they went inside. The priest showed the boy how to make the sign of the cross and told the boy to repeat it…”In the name of the Father, The Son… Amen” The priest said, “What about the Holy Spirit?” The boy replied, “Its outside taking care of my bike!”
Today, we are celebrating Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost literally means 50th. It is a feast celebrated on the 50th day after the Passover feast by the Jews. The Jewish Pentecost was originally a post-harvest thanksgiving feast. Later it was celebrated to remember God’s Covenants with Noah after the Deluge and with Moses at Mt. Sinai.
For Christians, it is a memorial of the day the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles and the Virgin Mary in the form of fiery tongues, an event that took place fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus. The Paschal mystery of the Passion, the Death, the Resurrection, and the Ascension of Jesus culminates in the sending of the Holy Spirit by the Father at the request of His Son on Jesus’ disciples.
The feast also commemorates the official inauguration of the Christian Church by the apostolic preaching of St. Peter which resulted in the conversion of 3000 Jews to the Christian faith. Pentecost is, thus, the official birthday of the Church.
Today’s Scripture readings remind us that Pentecost is an event of both the past and the present. The main theme of today’s readings is that the gift of the Holy Spirit is something to be shared with others. In other words, the readings remind us that the gift of the Holy Spirit moves its recipients to action and inspires them to share this gift with others.
In St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians we get, not a story, but a theological interpretation of the event. It seems that Paul had been writing to Corinth because there had been arguments in the Corinth community about the relative importance of the different graces or gifts given by the Spirit. They thought that some gifts were more valuable than others, and that speaking in tongues was to be most valued. Paul response to this is to lump all the gifts together and describe them in their totality as graces given by the Spirit in order to build up a community.
All are given gifts and all are valuable and are not to be rated better or worse, but simply they are to be used for the good of the community and the spread of the Word. The gift is not given a person to inspire pride in it, but it is for the common good of all. The idea Paul suggests is that being a part of the body of Christ, we each have a function for the common good. We need to find out what that function is that the Spirit has given us, develop it, trust God the Spirit to activate it, and then appreciate and not be envious of the gifts of others which work to further our own good.
I am suggesting, with Paul today, that each of you has been given a gift to advance the community here. You may not have discovered that gift yet. You may have been afraid to discover that gift. But with your confirmation, it can be discovered and activated. It may even surprise you. This week I request you to think about what gift or gifts you may have been graced with, and whether you are using them for the good of this community or in building Christ’s kingdom beyond us.
You may want to think of it as a talent for something or just simply something you are good at, but it is important to bring it to our table, to use it, to function as part of Christ’s body. I promise you, when you use it properly it will feel very satisfying and good and you will know you have contributed to the unity of this parish and this community through the grace of God.
This is the Good News you need to discover within yourself and use, and Happy Birthday to our Church!