Reflections 4th June 2017

A Reflection for Pentecost Sunday

JN: 20:19-23 (  )

We've all experienced the sadness of leaving, e.g. when someone we are close to leaves us for a definite period of time. But the saddest leaving is that of leaving for good, in death.

The Apostles went through that very experience with Jesus. Having become so close to Him, they hear Him tell them that it is better that He goes. The reason? In order that they experience an even more powerful presence in His place, as in days to come they will receive the Holy Spirit. Jesus Himself had promised the Apostles: "I will not leave you orphans. I will come back to you".

True to His promise, Jesus gives way to the Holy Spirit. "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and then you will be my witnesses the ends of the earth" (Acts of the Apostles, 1:8). "Power" or empowerment is what the Apostles needed so badly.

Pentecost Day was when the great earth-shattering event, the world-changing events took place with the coming of the Holy Spirit as we read in Acts of the Apostles (2:1), the first reading for Pentecost Sunday Mass.  The Apostles, so fearful at the beginning, were now on fire, filled with the gifts conferred on them by the Holy Spirit, gifts to enable them to bring the Good News of the Lord to the ends of the earth. Above all, the Spirit cast out the fear which had caught hold of the Apostles, and gave them new courage & strength. They were now fearless in their task.

Down through the ages, the Church has drawn on the power and assurance of the Spirit of Pentecost.  Who or what could have kept people faithful to the teaching of Jesus if not the Holy Spirit?  Who or what inspired so much in the Church and in people to "go out" to far-off peoples and places? Who or what could have inspired the great missionary movements of the 20th century?

For sure the Holy Spirit was at work with the numbers of Irish missionary movements in the 1950s, 1960s and earlier. Hundreds went out from Ireland and from many other European countries to places in Africa, South America and elsewhere. Not only did vast numbers of men and women give themselves but parish communities accompanied them with spiritual and material support.

In the southern hemisphere where the Good News has been heard and found a home, the people now are agents of evangelization to themselves and to many other places as well, especially Africa where the Church is now so vibrant. There is what we call "reverse mission" in operation where for example "Africans are missionaries to themselves" as Pope Paul VI challenged them to be when he visited Uganda in 1969.

John the Evangelist has the giving of the Holy Spirit on Easter Day as we hear in the gospel for Pentecost Sunday. Luke, the Evangelist interprets Jewish tradition which sees Pentecost as the feast of the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai. For Luke, it is a proclamation of the Good News of Jesus. It is a unifying force of all the people of the world. John and Luke are both proclaiming the same Good News, differing only in their datings and their theological perspectives.

Martin Keane C.S.Sp. - Ordained in 1970,Fr. Martin was first appointed to Kenya in 1971. He would later as Provincial in Ireland, and currently is the leader of the Spiritan Community attached to Rockwell College, a Spiritan school in Co. Tipperary