Sunday, 15 May 2016
Pentecost, Year C
Today, on the feast of Pentecost, we remember a colossal CHANGE that occurred to the first Christians on this day over 2000 years ago.
When the Holy Spirit came upon them they had been timid and fearful and were hiding in the Upper Room. They had seen the Risen Lord, repeatedly, and yet it somehow hadn't been enough to change them in a way that SENT them out to tell the crowds. The coming of the Holy Spirit transformed them. And, as we’ve been reading from the Acts of the Apostles these past weeks of Eastertide, the coming of that Spirit launched a whole wave of activity in what was then called, “the Church”:
They told people about Christ and about the words of Christ, they baptised people into Christ’s baptism, they took this out across the nations, sanctifying people with the gift of His presence in the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, appointing bishops and priests to govern the new Christian communities across the world.
They had been timid and in hiding. Yet, now, they did all this so boldly that they endured persecution and martyrdom.
They were changed, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
There is, likewise, a change that the Holy Spirit is supposed to produce in you and in me.
Our second reading today, from St Paul to the Romans, challenges us in this regard. The challenge concerns what our “interests” are in. Are our interests spiritual or unspiritual?
I was thinking of this in an example I saw in a lot of newspaper headlines these past weeks, where it seems that the biggest concern of some people has been how to watch the latest season of Game of Thrones on TV, without a Sky subscription.
Is this the meaning of life? Is this what our “interests” should be concerned with? Is the arrival of the latest Game of Thrones season the “change” I have been looking for in life?
The change that our second reading and Gospel text calls us to is a different kind of change. It is the change that is the culmination of the whole Paschal Mystery that Lent and Easter are aimed at. Why did the Lord Jesus choose to be born, teach the crowds in Palestine 2000 years ago, to suffer and die, and rise again?
It was to achieve what we heard St Paul talk about, it was to enable each one who comes to Him, each one who is formed by His Spirit, to have a share in being what He is by nature:
“a son of God”, “to share in His glory”, to be “children of God”.
This is not something we can achieve by our own power, we can only do it by His Spirit. And His Spirit is sent to bring us to Him,
to form us into His image,
to draw us into all that He gave and taught us.
That is why we heard the Lord say that what the Holy Spirit would teach us and remind us were the very things that HE had “said to you”, and to dwell in us in order that the Father and the Son would dwell in us and “make [their] home” in us.
Let me close by focusing this on the TYPE of change you or I might be looking for:
If the only change you are looking for is the next season of Game of Thrones, or something similar,
then you are NOT looking for something that will change YOU, you just want to remain the same couch potato you are already, you just want to change the things AROUND you -not to change yourself.
If, in contrast, you are not just looking to change some of the details AROUND you, but are actually looking to change YOURSELF, then your “interests” might indeed be in the “spiritual things” St Paul speaks of.
And if we want such a change, an ever deeper and deeper change, if we want to truly be conformed to the “image of the Son” by the power of His Spirit, then the change we recall today that occurred to the first Christians at Pentecost can remind us that such a change can be in us too.