By Fr. Tim McFarland, C.PP.S.
Today is traditionally regarded as the birthday of the Church, when the Holy Spirit descended upon those gathered in the upper room. Today is also when some churches once again open doors for the public celebrations of the liturgy (albeit with limited numbers and social distancing) after more than two months of closed-door livestreamed Masses. In some ways we are like the apostles who were sheltered in the upper room—we are sheltered in our homes with some gradual opening dependent on where we are.
The first thing that strikes me about the first reading from Acts is the Good News is proclaimed to all types of people in the language that they understood. It is a re-creation of sorts, undoing what took place at the tower of Babel. At Babel, people were trying to, in a sense, siege God though their own efforts. Today we recall how God now reaches out to all people with the Spirit and brings new life to all. This is a result of the Spirit.
We humans often have trouble comprehending the Spirit—we often need more concrete images to understand things. We have a number of images of the Holy Spirit in today’s readings: like a dove, like the rush of a violent wind, and divided tongues, as of fire. Yet none of these fully do justice to who the Spirit is, as these images use the modifier “like.” No matter what image we have of the Spirit (or God for that matter), God and the Spirit are much more than we can imagine.
St. Paul describes the different gifts of the spirit that were given to all from the same Spirit. We have surely experienced these different gifts in our lives and we see them manifest in others.
In the Gospel we hear that the first gift offered to the disciples was peace, and the next gift of the Spirit was the forgiveness of sins—reconciliation with God and others.
In reflecting on all these images in light of Precious Blood spirituality, several things come to mind. The first and most obvious is the gift of reconciliation for all people that was brought about through Jesus’ Precious Blood. Second is that this message was given to all—in a language they understood. This message of peace and reconciliation was proclaimed not just to the Jews but also to the Gentiles in a way they understood. Third is that the Spirit bestows gifts on all and all are called to use these gifts to proclaim in word and deed the presence of the Kingdom of God.
Happy Pentecost to all and may all experience the peace and reconciliation given to us by God.
Fr. Tim McFarland, C.PP.S., is the parochial vicar at Immaculate Conception Parish, Celina, Ohio.