Breathing in the spirit

Pentecost Year B 23 May 2021

‘Stay Connected’ says the sign outside the church at the top of the street and there’s a quote from the first letter of John: ‘Let us love one another for love is from God.’ This past year we’ve heard quite a bit about staying connected, less of God’s love perhaps, but it’s the Holy Spirit which connects them, because the Spirit is all about connection, relationship and God’s love.

It’s what you get in the first reading from Acts when we hear of what’s happening to the disciples fifty days after the resurrection. In a locked room, there comes a sound like a great wind from heaven and tongues of fire and released by the Spirit they find ‘what they have to say about Jesus can be translated to everyone’! A new creation is happening. It’s breathtaking, dramatic and empowering and we’re a part of it too.

Our images of the Holy Spirit – wind, fire, breath – are meant to unsettle us, move us out of our locked rooms to begin the living out of God’s love. They draw us into relationship with Christ, with the Father, with each other and with those we know as ‘them’ only to discover they too are us. We begin to reach out to strangers, the embattled, the broken-hearted and be with ‘them’, and through these relationships we learn to be with one other and become ourselves.

The self-giving of Jesus Christ, in his dying and being raised to endless life, models this way of living, giving as God gives, unceasingly. The words we use to speak of this – excess, outpouring, prodigality, overflow – however we say it, speak of this abundant new life, given to us.

It’s an extraordinary event, but in today’s gospel from the last supper in John, there’s nothing out of the ordinary, nothing dramatic about the Spirit. Instead, the Spirit is to come as our Advocate, the Spirit of truth and witness to this self giving of Jesus, it seems without too great excitement. Often this is how the Spirit comes to us in our lives, quietly, unexpectedly, as we know when we’re put in touch with the heart of the matter by a word, a gesture, a video – you name it – and a match is lit. 

At Easter, in John’s gospel, the Spirit is breathed into the disciples and over the fifty days that follow they’re drawn more deeply into a life freed of resentment and fear, until at Pentecost we’re all invited to participate in this new way of belonging to one another, in Jesus Christ. The Spirit is the environment in which this happens, in which we come alive, for the sake of one another.

All this we celebrate at Mass today when the Easter season culminates dramatically, quietly, in the pouring out of the Spirit, and now the never-ending story of God’s love can be told to everyone. This is our mission, and as Paul says in the second reading, ‘our life’. 

Damian Coleridge

© Majellan Media 2021

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