The spirit of Pentecost requires an attitude of inclusion and ecumenism. It is reaching out beyond our own limits and biases to speak in a language that all can understand. Theologian Karl Rahner once explained the importance of Pentecost as the “realization that the center of all reality, the innermost heart of all infinity, the love of the all-holy God has become our center, our heart. God is ours! In the coming of the Holy Spirit, God has been given to us as gift, without reserve. God has made our own the joy, freedom, and peace of the divine life.”
The realization of this gift is a loving heart and a fiery passion to spread justice throughout our world. We know this gift is ours, but we have not fully discovered it, nor harnessed it to allow our active participation in the redemption of our world. To fully use the power of this gift, we must remake our world, and come to realize what it means to be church for others.
To be church means that all “action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appear to us to be a constitutive [essential] dimension of the preaching of the gospel.” [A statement made by the Latin American Bishops’ conference held in Medellin, Colombia in 1969 calling for the Church to act for social justice.] To be church according to Pope Francis is to “go to the fringes of society where the mystery of sin, pain, injustice, religious indifference and all human miseries are found.” These and many other statements reflect the church as it is called to be.
Perhaps your experience of church is reflected in this statement by scriptural writer, Fr. James Smith: “We have mistaken civilization for humanity, we have elevated our convenience to a necessity, and we have forsaken the godly life for the good life. And we come to realize that those people on the margins of the world experience God in a personal way that we can only envy.” He concludes: “It is only when we compare ourselves with the most destitute, ignorant, and disadvantaged people on earth that we understand why God’s Kingdom belongs to them. I hope they let us in!”
The Pentecost message was not only proclaimed to those present 2000 years ago, but to everyone marked by baptism into Christ. We are the church as truly as those who experienced the wind and fire of the first Pentecost. Today we ask: “What good is it to us that the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles 2000 years ago if we are not open to the coming of the Spirit into your hearts now?” [Meister Eckhart] We who call ourselves church humbly pray: “Breath into me, Spirit of God that I can think what is holy. Drive me, Spirit of God that I may do what is holy. Draw me Spirit of God that I may love what is holy. Strengthen me, Spirit of God that I may preserve what is holy. Guide me Spirit of God, that I may never lose what is holy.” [Augustine]
Today we are challenged to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, bring comfort to the sick and welcome strangers. This means that we struggle to serve, to bring peace, and to work for justice by reevaluating our lifestyle, re-thinking our worldview, and resolving to use the Pentecost fire given us to change the world. We can do it! ----Deacon Wilson Shierk