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Posted by on May 26, 2010

Pentecost Insights on Laundry Day

Pentecost Insights on Laundry Day

Dove of Peace by Pablo Picasso

We celebrated the feast of Pentecost this past Sunday. It’s the Birthday of the Church and one of my favorite celebrations. Without the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, we would most likely never have heard the Good News of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. His followers were just plain too scared to tell what they had witnessed.

At Pentecost, the Lord’s promise that He would ask the Father to send an Advocate to us, one who would continue to teach us what we need to know, was fulfilled. We entered the age of the Holy Spirit, an age that continues to our day.

I was musing on the wonders of the coming of the Spirit and the importance of the event yesterday while doing laundry and caring for my 14 month old grandson. (Yes, he’s a beautiful child and a rare delight!) I’d had a conversation on Sunday with a non-Catholic friend who had really never heard of Pentecost in her religious experience. We had talked about the coming of the Holy Spirit, the timing of the feast in relation to Easter and the effect of the Spirit’s coming on the early Christian community. I’m always surprised to find again that people are not aware of the story of the Church and the many twists and turns of its history. There is so often a sense that all was clear and settled from the start. The Acts of the Apostles makes it clear that the first followers of The Way were feeling their way and responding to the promptings of the Holy Spirit just as we must today.

My grandson loves to fold clothes. Up until a week ago, he simply stood by the davenport (sofa, couch) and pulled the clothes off as fast as he could. Once they were all on the floor, he’d hand them to me as fast as he could. Then I’d pick all of them up and we’d repeat the process, with a few more actually getting folded at each repetition! Last week he discovered that he no longer needs to hold a big person’s hand to walk or even run. So now he grabs an article of clothing from the stack and takes off racing across the room with it, dropping it at some point along his way.

He was laughing happily and carrying a handkerchief when suddenly he stopped. Several of us, including the child, have had colds, including runny noses. He’s been fascinated by the blowing of noses that has been occurring around the household. He put the handkerchief to his nose and made a loud blowing sound through his lips. He was so proud of himself. He was certain he’d figured out how to make that amazing noise that all of us had been making. In fact, he was so delighted, that he raced back to the davenport, grabbed a shirt and repeated the feat. Then a sock… Then a pair of pants…  Each time he simply beamed with delight and laughed uproariously.

It struck me, as I watched and laughed with him, that we are blessed that the gifts of the Holy Spirit continue to be poured out among us, with the Spirit continuing to teach us in our day too. As we learn so much more in the worlds of science, math, psychology, anthropology and all the other realms of human knowledge, it is truly a blessing that the Holy Spirit is with us, enlightening our hearts so we can see the Lord’s hand in all of creation in ever more wondrous ways. Imagine how sad it would be if we were forever condemned to the level of understanding of a small child who believes that blowing his nose requires use of his mouth! It’s a fine step on the way to understanding of the real way to perform the task, but only a step. With the grace of the Holy Spirit, we too move forward in our journey, growing up a little more each day and each generation, to see the wonders the Lord has wrought for us.

Happy Birthday, Church.

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Posted by on Jun 5, 2009

The Feast of Pentecost and the Age of the Holy Spirit

The Feast of Pentecost and the Age of the Holy Spirit

Eastern Orthodox Icon of Pentecost

Eastern Orthodox Icon of Pentecost

The Feast of Pentecost falls 50 days after Easter. Pentecost was originally a celebration of the first harvest and people came to Jerusalem from all over the known world to celebrate the feast.

For people in northern climes, the thought of a first harvest celebration in Spring may sound strange. After all, the snow has barely melted and crops are nowhere near ready to harvest. Even early crops like strawberries and lettuce aren’t ready yet. Nevertheless, in the Middle East, and by extension in that general latitude around the globe, many crops have already been harvested. Just go to a grocery store and you’ll see the fruits of our fields waiting for your table!

Within the Church, we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the disciples – men and women who had been friends, family and followers of Jesus. This outpouring of the Spirit of God, the God Who is Love, gave birth to the Christian community that endures to this day. Jesus’ friends and followers were transformed from frightened “mice” into fearless “lions” who proclaimed boldly that Jesus had been raised from the dead, that He is the long awaited Christ, that God has made Him both Lord and Savior, that a new age has dawned and the Kingdom of God has begun.

These early disciples wasted no time in putting their beliefs into action. They shared what they had. They cared for and healed the sick. They took care of widows and orphans – the powerless ones of their society. They recognized the gifts of women who were leaders in their communities. They spread the Good News of the Lord to all who would listen. And they struggled to understand the implications for themselves and their society of the Good News and the freedom of God’s children. Who were God’s chosen ones? Who could be followers of the Way? What parts of the Law were non-Jews required to obey? How can the pastoral needs of the community be met? Who will look out for the powerless ones in our own communities? How do we choose leaders for our communities? How should Christian family members behave with each other?

For nearly 2000 years we have dealt with these issues as a community. Today we still face many of them, though in a much wider context, as a global, international community that includes peoples of all cultures. More than ever we must count on the continued outpouring of the Spirit to guide us and make us bold witnesses to the Good News.

Much of what we take for granted today is the result of the work of Christians who actively put their beliefs into practice and stepped out to make their part of the world a better place. Institutions such as hospitals, schools for poor and even middle-class children, education for girls, social safety nets, and many others have resulted from the Christian insight that God cares about all humans, even those who traditionally have been excluded.

The Christian belief that all receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit in Baptism and Confirmation also leads to the understanding that all are responsible to share the gifts they have received and bear fruit in their lives. Together we listen to the Spirit and share in the development and shaping of both our Church community and the world.

As we move through these days following Pentecost, we face many challenges. It’s a time of global financial challenges. Governments are moving quickly to try to minimize the harmful effects of the banking crisis on their people. Social service agencies and churches are struggling to offer aid to the increasing numbers of people coming to their doors. Here in California there’s talk of dismantling all state funded social services, including health care programs for children of low income families and the welfare to work programs that helped so many families keep roofs over their heads and food on their tables.

What will we as children of God, brothers and sisters, do to address these challenges in our communities, states and countries? Will we say, as so many do, “It’s not my responsiblity to care for the children of the poor. Why don’t their parents just go get jobs?” Will we say, “Don’t ask me to pay more taxes. I shouldn’t have to cut back my lifestyle to pay for other people’s mistakes.” Will we sit in judgement of people who are losing their homes because they lost their jobs? Will we smugly assume that we’ve saved enough money to keep us safe if we get ill or lose a job? Will we criticize the people who lost their savings to the stock market when the money should have been somewhere safer? I hope not.

This year the time from Pentecost onward can be a time in which we truly listen to the Holy Spirit’s call to build up the Kingdom by caring for the poor, the powerless, those who are ill and who are losing their security (whether as a result of their own errors or those of others). It’s a time to trust that if we give of what we have, share from our abundance or our need, God will make sure that our needs are met. Our ethic of life must include not only the unborn but also those who are here and in need. Womb to tomb includes all those days in-between as well. Let’s not forget that as a Church community.

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