Pentecost Sunday (B)
There are different ways people join groups:
a) Leaders of tribal people make blood compact so that their tribes may become friends, protect one another, be able to marry from the other tribe peacefully and be at peace with everyone;
b) Neophytes of some fraternities have to suffer beatings and other forms of physical pain for the enjoyment of their leaders and the older members so that they (neophytes) can join them, be protected from other groups and remain friends, supposedly for life;
c) In a foreign country, persons of the same culture and belief tend to get along and become friends;
d) In the social sphere, people of the same interest and aspiration tend to get along.
However, St. Paul tells us that “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” (1 Cor 12:13). We did not have to cut our skin to make a blood compact with God, in fact, it was Jesus who suffered lashes for our sake. We did not have to suffer beating, in fact it was Jesus who suffered beatings and carried the cross, so that we could be protected from the evil one and become heirs of His Kingdom. Jesus came down into the world so that by His death we can have life. On top of these, Jesus sacrificed Himself to be our Bread of Life in the Eucharist. Our friendship with God is a blood compact, but with the Blood of Jesus. It is also a beating of our hearts in repentance for our sins against Him and against our neighbor. Our baptism in the Church is a baptism of water and the Holy Spirit to wash away our sins and the sins of the world, so that we can become worthy children of God.
In our Gospel today, Jesus does three very significant actions:
1st, despite closed doors, Jesus comes in the midst of the Apostles and says, “Peace be with you.” In the midst of their fears, fear of the Jews, fear of disowning Jesus, fear of their incompetence, Jesus came to them, and in all probability, Jesus was there with them all the time.
We have our own fears: fear of economic breakdown, fear of our social disorder, fear of violence, fear of wars and calamities, fear of political oppression, fear of the evil one, and many others. But we know that Jesus is always present. Many times we do not recognize Him or probably we have driven Him away because of our sins. Many times we ignore Him. Yet He is always there. And He can break through the barriers that we have set up due to our pride and negligence in our responsibilities.
2nd, with another greeting of Peace, He gives the Holy Spirit to His disciples. With His peace in their hearts, they now could bring His peace to all and could proclaim that Jesus has risen from the dead.
The Spirit of God is given to us in the sacraments, initially at Baptism and at Confirmation. God’s Spirit is also present in all who strive to seek Him and earnestly work for the common good. He is given to us and lives in us, so that we can strive to seek God and to do good for His Glory and for the good of all. Because the Spirit of God is given to us, all the days of our lives are, or at least should be, joyful days of the Resurrection and Pentecost. St. Basil writes: “The power of the Spirit fills the whole universe, but He gives Himself only to those who are worthy, acting in each according to the measure of his faith” (from the treatise On the Holy Spirit).
3rd, He breathed on the Apostles and gave them the power to forgive and to retain sins. In creation, when God breathed into the nostrils of the clay that He formed, man became alive, created in His own image and likeness to share in the joy of His Kingdom.
We are also sent. We cannot simply remain in our comfort zones. Jesus sends us to the whole world to be His witnesses, to preach His life and make disciples of all nations. He wants peace to reign in our hearts through the sacraments, especially the Sacrament of Reconciliation, from which we receive the mercy of God, and the Sacrament of the Eucharist, which is the Bread from Heaven for the life of the world.
With Mary, who was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and became the Mother of Jesus, let us ask God to fill us also with His Spirit. Let us also ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in the ways of Jesus. As we pray at the consecration of the bread and wine that the Holy Spirit come upon the gifts, we also pray that He comes into our hearts and consecrate us to be His faithful witnesses in our responsibilities and relationships.