Pentecost: The Spirit of the Lord Is in My Soul!
Father Martino Nguyễn Bá Thông (St. Anne Catholic Church – Columbus, GA)
The Spirit of the Lord Is in My Soul!
One of the first English song I learned was: If the spirit of the Lord is in my soul, I will sing like David sang. I will sing, I will sing, I will sing like David sang! And you how terrible I sing, by just experiencing it! Did I tell you, that my assignment as a newly ordained deacon was to an African American Parish in down town Harrisburg, PA. The Pastor told me that I would have to CHANT the gospel and then give my first homily! About the homily I was ready, but chanting, “No” I told the pastor! He said that I didn’t have a choice and things would be fine. So I did it! After the mass, as I was standing outside the church shaking people’s hands and hearing compliments such as: It was a great homily and your English was good! A five or six year old kid walked up to me and said: “Deacon, you need a voice lesson!” Wow, that comment did not surprise me, but it surely put the mother in an awkward position so she said: “You should not say that to the deacon.” The kid quickly replied: “But Mommy, that’s what daddy said!”
Today we come to the high point of our Easter celebration, the Feast of Pentecost – where the Holy Spirit is pouring upon us, so that is why I sang! Pentecost, meaning “fifty days” after the Passover — was the feast day in which the Jewish people celebrated the Giving of the Law on Mount Sinai. On Mt Sinai the different tribes of Israel entered into covenant with God and with one another and so became the people of God.
The arrival of the Holy Spirit did not come from the middle of nowhere, but was affirmed in the First Reading [Acts 2:1-11] when we heard, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages. Being baptized in the Spirit was affirmed in the Second Reading [1 Cor. 12:3b-7, 12- 13] when it was said, “In the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.” And being sent to proclaim the Word of God was affirmed in the Gospel Reading [Jn. 20:19-23] when we heard, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” These three passages are the gist of today’s homily
As we can well imagine, the disciples were filled with fear and foreboding after the death of their Master. But suddenly, Jesus was there among them, radiant with life. He showed them his terrible wounds, which have now become beautiful emblems of his love for them, and he offered them his peace–that deep, calm, confident sense of well-being, which is so different from their own fear and uncertainty. This peace became possible through the presence of his Spirit in them.
As fragile human beings, we know the experience of living in fear and of being anxious and worried about many things, some of which exist only in our imagination. Jesus, having absorbed the ultimate violence, offers us his peace and thereby enables us to be confident and joyful in the face of uncertainty and threat. This represents a real experience of liberation from the paralysis of fear–a paralysis that often prevents us from doing beautiful things.
With this peace and joy comes the obligation to share our blessings with others. It was once thought that the command of Jesus to forgive or retain sins was addressed only to priests and referred only to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Now it is clear that this charge is addressed to all the followers of Jesus. We must all accept the wonderful and awesome responsibility of offering or withholding forgiveness. In this case, the sin of omission looms large and should make us all examine our consciences in regard to the many times that we may have persisted in nursing old injuries or in refusing to make allowance for extenuating circumstances in the lives of those we call sinners.
It is, of course, very difficult to live such an ideal forgiveness. And that is why Jesus offers us the Holy Spirit who, if given half a chance, will empower us to become the kind of gentle, caring and compassionate persons that can make a real difference in a world that desperately needs the witness of love and forgiveness. Now that the Spirit is in us, let us all rejoice, let us sing (no matter how our voice sounds, it will sound beautiful to Our Father J), let us dance and let us learn to forgive and love one another.