Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit after his ascension, and so he does! Hurricane winds and tongues of fire, driving the frightened disciples out into the streets of Jerusalem where they give God praise and thanksgiving in every known language – taking the universal Word of God into the hearts and minds of individual men and women, speaking their various languages so that the mercy of the Father is offered to and understood by everyone who has ears to hear. Bloodlines, ancestry, tribal identity, race, class – none of these matter anymore in matters of salvation. Why? B/c the Holy Spirit has washed over the disciples, set them on fire, and sent them out into the desperate world with the Word to preach and the work of Christ to accomplish. It no longer matters to your salvation that your mama was a Gentile, or your daddy a slave, or that you were born the “wrong kind of Jew.” It no longer matters to your salvation that you are a rich, land-owning foreign invader, or a bought and paid for soldier for the occupiers, or even – the worse possible thing you could be – a tax collector! If you have ears to hear, listen: you are no longer a slave to sin. You. Are. Free. You are free to grow in holiness by loving Christ and those he sends to you to love.
Everything that was once required of us to be in good standing with God has been fulfilled in Christ Jesus. The Mosaic Law. Fulfilled. The Prophets. Fulfilled. The animal sacrifices. Fulfilled. And now the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is the fulfillment of Christ's promise to his disciples to send us an Advocate, a Defender, a spirit of consolation, strength, and joy. Now that we are free under the fulfilled law and recreated under the new commandment of love, we are ready to receive the Spirit of the Father and the Son who is Himself perfect love. In the same way that water is shaped by its container, so the Spirit is shaped by the one who receives Him. But the Spirit also does some shaping of His own. Some will be shaped to teach. Others shaped to preach. Some to lead, some to heal. Paul says, “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.” Whose benefit? The benefit of the Body of the Christ, the Church. We have been freed from sin not to pursue our self-interested church-hobbies, or to establish personal fiefdoms in the parish. We have been freed to serve the Body to the limits of our spiritual gifts. We have been freed so that we are able to choose the Final Good and grow in holiness by loving sacrificially.
And that is no easy thing. Before the coming of the Holy Spirit, the disciples were locked in a room, terrified, every noise must've sounded like Roman legionnaires coming up the stairs to drag them off to be crucified. In their fear, they must've been thinking about Jesus and his teachings. How do we love our enemies?! How do we forgive 70x7?! How can we follow Christ when everyone out there is trying to kill us?! How am I supposed to be perfect as the Father is perfect?! And then – in the middle of all that anxiety and fear – Jesus appears and says, “Peace be with you.” How do we accomplish all the things Christ asks of us? He says, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” First, be at peace. The victory is won. We cannot lose b/c Christ has always, already won. Second, the Father sent the Son to us with the Holy Spirit. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Christ sends us out into the world with the Holy Spirit – our Advocate and Defender. Third, b/c salvation no longer depends on race, class, tribal identity, or birthplace, our work for Christ is universal. Anyone with ears can hear the Good News and receive forgiveness for their sins. We can offer freedom in Christ b/c we are free in Christ.
And it is the ministry of the Holy Spirit among us to give us everything we need to remain free – a well-formed conscience, a strong trust in God, a sure belief in the life to come, the ability and willingness to do the Good for others, and – tying all those together – an abiding peace, a peace that means we have settled into our bones a knowledge and love of God that cannot be moved and must be shared. If you have ears to hear, listen: you are no longer a slave to sin. You. Are. Free. You are free to grow in holiness by loving Christ and loving those he sends to you to love.
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