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PENTECOST SUNDAY 2016 JERUSALEM IN ST. LUKE AND JOHN
People love to go to Jerusalem. And each one must ask why he or she goes if and when they do. it is not strange to keep looking to the past to understand better the meaning of the present. We do that for self - identity as human beings anyway. Without our parents we would not know who we are. And we live as a set of coordinated memories. That is what we are collectively as Christians too. But the accent must fall on living out life in the present. This is not just a question of thinking with ideas; it involves doing things practically too . We are doing daily what the past gave us to do, but what is realistic and actual for now. Through visiting and imagining the Holy Places we fill out our knowledge, and what we learn through this exercise helps determine and round out what our believing lives are about. Last week for the Ascension we were on the Mount of Olives. This week we are on Mt Sion the site traditionally claimed to be the Cenacle of Last Supper importance. Here the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles. It was the rich quarter of Jerusalem, near the palaces of Herod and Pilate. Today the Church of the Dormition is its near neighbour and a little museum to the Holocaust. St. Luke gives us the account in Acts, the first reading for today. Everybody of any importance including Our Lady was present there that Pentecost day. Typically Luke said they were in prayer when the Holy Spirit descended on them; Luke has everybody praying whenever possible. They had been staying there at Our Lord`s ordinance and they were afraid of the Jews. It was a Jewish feast, a harvest festival. That explains why so many were up in Jerusalem from all over the world. The Jews were very faithful to their pilgrimages. Indeed they were only following the stipulations of their Law in doing so.
ST. LUKE’S ACCOUNT
The followers of Our Lord on that particular feast were not joining in the usual celebrations; despite their experience of the resurrected Christ, they were still cowering for fear of the Jews. One wonders why. If they knew who Jesus was, and what the resurrection had meant, how could one ex plain the fact that they would have been scared of anything anymore? Luke has the whole world come to Jerusalem. And he sees the Apostles transformed in the Spirit to meet this world. Fear disappears and they come out boldly to face a crowd taken to be hostile until then. The scenario before they emerge is derived from an Old Testament background. Fire is associated with God and the tongues of fire are indicative of the gift of tongues bestowed by the Spirit. In Israel God would send his Spirit at the end of time. The effect would be real with effect in the actual life of the people on whom he would descend. Speaking in tongues was a sign of that presence. Lack of fear would be another sign. Ready access to God- through Christ, the Messiah, is the end of existence: it is the fullness. Everything that life is about would then be realised. The citation from Joel of young men seeing visions and old men dreaming dreams are just ways of expressing this.
It comes across quite differently in John 20:19-23. First of all the risen Jesus greets them with PEACE. This is the messianic peace. Everything that had been foretold in Isaiah 9-11 is included in this. Reconciliation as when the lion and the kid lie down together and a child will be able to play with a serpent without danger. And of course that is what reconciliation is all about. The disciples receiving the Holy Spirit become reconciled in the name of God. It means peace with the God who had sent his Messiah and peace between the people who belong to the Christ Messiah. This is universal now. Whereas the gift of tongues shows the confusion of languages at Babel now undone, the believing world can now communicate with each other and there is no fear and no rivalry- all is peace through Jesus. FOR US What does it mean in practice for us, Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety and the Fear of the Lord?. We recall the gifts of the Spirit that we had learned by heart for receiving Confirmation? The most important thing of all is that we are confirmed in our belief in Our Lord and in everything that He is about. We do not argue ourselves into faith and we do not congratulate ourselves on being believers. It is all gift. When someone says thanks it is obvious that such a one has been protected and loved. It is part of the mystery why on that First Pentecost morning some believed and some did not, when Peter preached to them and the Apostles spoke in tongues. The NT does not claim to answer the mystery of that either.
It is a time of grace, of gift, to ask for a strength that we always need when we celebrate this feast of Pentecost. We can be really touched by the hymns to the Holy Spirit today. Thou of all consolers best, solace in the midst of woe. It is about the experience of the faith, the values that we hold dearest, the love that we would treasure. It is about the work that we do- so often so routine and that it will help the lives of those with whom we spend our lives. How we would want people not to make a mess of their lives, that they would be at peace and happy. And have the discipline to bring it about. The Christian faith says this comes from above, from God`s Holy Spirit. It is God`s way of being present with his Church and with each individual on the road to the heavenly Jerusalem. The truly amazing thing is that the Church is still here, young and fresh, despite so much that threatened it. And today is our day.
A happy feast to you all.
Rev Richard J. Taylor Spiritual Advisor
Boarbank Hall, Cumbria, UK