One in the Spirit of Unity

05-20-2018Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

There is no way that we are able to contain the Holy Spirit. This Spirit is much larger thanus, or our minds or imaginations. In John’s Gospel, the Holy Spirit comes on the very first evening of Easter, Easter Sunday night. In this version the Spirit is a commissioning Holy Spirit, apeace-bearing, forgiving Spirit, quiet but powerful. We all know the larger story of how the firstChristian Pentecost began in great fear and ended in ecstatic joy. However, we realize that the reality of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit, has not yet ended because we now in this momentof today, and every moment, live in the time of this powerful Spirit.

We see this day as the very first day of the Church’s life and can picture in our minds thescene of the disciples crowded together in an out-of-the-way room, unsure and fearful. There isno question it would take a dramatic appearance of God’s glory and power to eliminate this fearand replace it with bold joy. In scripture we read that is what happened. We are also told in theActs of the Apostles that the descending Spirit came as a strong wind and how the flames of fireplayfully danced, then quietly rested over the disciples’ heads.

Please note that Peter, the leader, stood up and left that closed upper room never to return.He then proclaimed aloud to one and all the death and resurrection of the Lord and also called fora change of heart. A mixed economic and cultural people beyond counting became one in theirunderstanding of God. Note how the author of the Acts of the Apostles emphasizes how desperatethe people were, and ultimately how unified they would become.

Our reading from First Corinthians informs us that this Spirit generates harmony and unityin the Church. Nothing in the Church, from ministry, good works or acts of faith can take placewithout the sustaining power of the Holy Spirit. We learn that all who are our Church are one inthe Spirit of unity. No one, in fact, is less or better. All the lines of distinction, separation and statushave been forever erased.

There is a second reading that may be substituted for this Feast Day of Pentecost; it is fromGalatians. In this reading, Saint Paul describes the futility of an unredeemed life, that is, what hecalls life in the “flesh.” He quickly identifies what we have come to call the Fruits of the Spirit.He wants us to imagine the experience of a Spirit-filled community as truly loving, joyful, peaceful,patient, kind, generous, faithful, and filled with gentle self-control.

Bear in mind that Christ appears before the fearful apostles and imparts the Gift and Spiritof peace. This precious gift begins with his forgiveness of them and the showering of the Messianic peace which all of Israel so longed for and which is now bestowed so generously - on thefirst Easter evening and on that glorious Pentecost day.

Saint Paul might have found it much faster to point out that life is not fair and some peoplehave intrinsically better gifts than others. He could have demanded uniformity, instead of unity. We know that God is far richer and deeper in His Will for us; the role of the Spirit is to get us tokeep giving out of our hearts no matter who we are or what there is to give. Bear in mind that ouruniversal Church, receiver of our, at times, conflicting multiple gifts, often needs a peaceful andforgiving Spirit. When you watch the Catholic Channel’s Papal Visits and Ceremonies at St. Peter’s in Rome, especially in the open square, you see how diverse and wonderful we are becauseof the Holy Spirit. Pentecost, the coming of the Spirit has empowered all of us to be strong faithfulbelievers in who we are at our best.