LORD, SEND OUT YOUR SPIRIT, AND RENEW THE FACE OF THE EARTH
This is the time of year for graduations and commencements from elementary school, middle school, high school and perhaps college. It can be a time filled with great joy over our accomplishments and hopes for the future. But it can also be a time filled with anxiety and fear with questions like…will I like my new teachers, will I make new friends, did I choose the right college, or will I get a job when I graduate? Whether or not we are experiencing graduation, throughout the course of our lives we find ourselves in situations that give rise to great hope but at the same time cause anxiety and fear On the eve on that first Pentecost, the disciples found themselves in a similar situation…a time filled with great joy and hope, but also a time filled with anxiety and fear. But with the coming of the Holy Spirit…the Teacher, the Helper, the Comforter, the Advocate, the Paraclete…the disciples fears and anxieties were transformed into confidence and good works for God’s kingdom!
To help us appreciate the range of emotions that Jesus’ followers likely experienced on the eve of Pentecost let’s put ourselves in their situation. As Jews living in the first century they were looking forward to the coming of the Messiah. A savior who wild save them from their sins…from the times that they turned inward on themselves and away from God. In today’s first reading the people, driven by pride, attempting to make a name for themselves apart from God by building a tower to the heavens. To prevent them from completing such a foolish undertaking God confused their language and scattered them throughout the world. At times throughout their history the Jews turned toward God, calling out in the Psalmist’s words, “Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.” But at other times they again turned away from God and toward sin. Throughout all of this, however, God continued the promise of a Messiah.
Finally, the Messiah came I the person of Jesus. During the feast that was being celebrated in today’s Gospel the priest filled a gold pitcher with water from the main water source and brought it back to the temple where the people sand out, “With joy you shall draw water from the springs of salvation.” Jesus told the crowds that the fountain from which they drew this water was not the source of living water. Rather, Jesus himself was the source of this living water or the Holy Spirit who would come after Jesus had been glorified. But soon afterwards, Jesus was crucified on the cross and died. The He rose from the dead! But He ascended into heaven and apparently left His followers behind! Now on the eve of the first Christian Pentecost, the Apostles and those gathered together in prayer were awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit which Jesus had promised would take place after He was glorified. And in John’s Gospel Jesus is glorified only after He has suffered, died, risen from the dead and ascended into heaven. Imagine the emotional roller coaster they had ben on. There were filled with great hope and anticipation, but also with fear after all they had experienced.
We know what happened next. A noise like a strong wind filled the entire house. And tongues of fire came to rest on each one of them and they were filled with the Holy Spirit. They began speaking of the mighty words and deeds of Jesus in languages form all over the world! This was the antithesis or undoing of the Tower of Babel…instead of being scattered, peoples from all the nations were reunited! Three thousand were baptized on that first Christian Pentecost! Many signs and wonders were performed by the Apostles, not be their own power, but through the grace of the Holy Spirit! Their fears and anxieties were turned into joy and good works! The Lord had sent out His Spirit and renewed the face of the earth! Just as the Holy Spirit transformed Jesus’ followers into missionary disciples, the Spirit will come to our aid and transform us if we call upon the Teacher, the Helper, the Comforter, the Advocate!
The Feast of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church, is the perfect time to call upon and allow the Holy Spirit to transform our fears and anxieties into joys and good works and turn us into missionary disciples. It is also a time to reflect upon how God is calling the Body of Christ assembled here at Mother of Divine Providence Parish to be part of the Holy Spirit’s action to renew the face of the earth. A time to rededicate ourselves to making the Body of Christ a dwelling place for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, rising above the Towers of Babel in our community that are opposed to the Holy Spirit’s renewal of life. And since “we often do not know how to pray as we ought”, words of Saint Paul to the Romans, we proclaim the words from the ancient liturgical tradition of the Church…Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall rewnew the face of the earth.