Pentecost – The End of the Beginning!
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Bottom Line: At one point in the dark hours of the Second World War, the allies had a rare victory in North Africa, and Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain, described it this way: “This is not the end; it is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” That is a good way to describe this feast of Pentecost – yes, it is the end of the Easter Season, but far more, it is the “end of the beginning.”
Father Martino Nguyễn Bá Thông (Saint Anne Catholic Church – Columbus, GA)
PENTECOST – Year B (2009)
The End of the Beginning!
Christmas, Easter and Pentecost are the three most important feasts of the Christian year and the Christian calendar. And Pentecost always comes in a distant third. We never have a Pentecost tree. We never have Pentecost presents. We never have Pentecost family gatherings. And, God help us, we never have a Pentecost egg hunt.
What is Pentecost really about, because there is no infant in a crib or empty tomb to make it clear for us? Instead we get a dove. We get wind. We get fire, and we get red shirts and maybe red socks. That’s what I have. What is Pentecost really about? You know, I sometime gather with a group of preachers and ministers to talk about the up coming feast, and one of the questions was “What is Pentecost really about?”
At one point in the dark hours of the Second World War, the allies had a rare victory in North Africa, and Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain, described it this way: “This is not the end; it is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” That is a good way to describe this feast of Pentecost-yes, it is the end of the Easter Season, but far more, it is the “end of the beginning.” The beginning of what? The beginning of the final salvation Jesus has for us.
It helps to recall the meaning of Lent and Easter: In Lent we acknowledge, we need a Savior. In Holy Week we see what it took: his suffering and death. Easter Day: He rose from the dead! For 40 days after: He finished preparing the Apostles. Ascension: He took his seat on the throne of heaven! So, when we come to Pentecost, everything is ready: Ready for the Holy Spirit to be the spark of life.
I read something recently, but cannot recall where; someone made the excellent point
that when our Lord ascended into heaven, but he is still here – because his name is Emmanuel-God is with us! Jesus remains here, and his presence is growing in the world all the time-the “final coming” is when his presence here is complete: that’s the real “end” of this world of pain, and the real beginning of the New Creation.
This is what Saint Paul refers to, in his letter to the Romans, when he says “all creation groans.” Mothers, you understand that; Paul is talking about “labor pains”: something beautiful is about to happen, yet it comes with pain and stress.
This image helps us understand why things are the way they are. Why isn’t the world a better place? We have such abundance, yet so many are in want.
How many thousands have died in Burma, because a government refused to let in outsiders? How many children are lost, because they aren’t “wanted”- because of so-called “choice”? Why is there no peace in the world… In our homes? In our hearts? No, Pentecost was not the end, not even the beginning of the end-but it is the end of the beginning-the new Creation.
You and I are that beginning. We are the New Creation being born. The groaning, the struggle, that our world goes through-it happens in our lives and in the Church. We realize we, too, hardly measure up yet to being the full Body of Christ. We have so far to go!
There are so many others yet to be invited, yet to be drawn into the Life of Christ. Next week, we will have an opportunity for that when we celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi. So let’s remain on today feast – remember the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit? The ones you receive at Confirmation! (I will have to ask you if you still remember.) I will remind you one that I think it is important for all of us!
The gift of hope! We remember the disciples went out and changed the world. But where were they to begin with? Behind locked doors! What locked the doors? Was it a combination lock? No. Was it a padlock? No. Was it a Yale lock? No. The gospel tells us they were locked up by fear. They were locked by fear. We have more than enough fear to go around. And the Spirit of God gives us the hope that allows us to break out of the fear and change the world and make a difference.
What are our fears? We have big fears. We have little fears. And I got to tell you, the little fears are the big ones. We have the fear of Global Warming. And we have the fear of personal loneliness. That’s the big one. We have the fear of what to do with Iraq and the war and terrorism – now added the North Korea. And we have the fear of personal depression. That’s the big one. We have the fear of all kinds of issues of justice, the problem of immigration, the problem of homeless. And we also have the fear of our family problems, our family security, and our family future. The powerful spirit of God can come through and unlock the doors of fear by giving us hearing to one another and community and hope. So we have to pray about it. Let’s sit back and meditate and pray,…………………..”Come Holy Spirit, Come.”
It seems so far away. But he is here present among us!
Father Martino Nguyen Ba Thong