There are a lot of people older than I am, who, when they are wished a Happy Birthday, will either say, ‘don’t remind me,’ or ‘I just don’t like birthdays anymore.’ As we get older, birthdays can become reminders that many of our loved ones aren’t with us anymore. Many tend to look at their birthdays in terms of ‘having to remember all the things we weren’t able to do’ or the things we wish we had done differently. It seems as we get older, we realize we can’t go back and change the way things happened.
Many consider Pentecost Sunday the birthday of the Church. It’s a nice thought but a useless one if we take it no further. To take it further, we only need look at today’s readings. The First Reading describes the actual events surrounding Pentecost: the noise of the strong wind that brought with it the fire of the Holy Spirit, this fire rested on the heads and in the hearts of the apostles in the upper room. Wait a minute! Why were the apostles in the upper room? They were afraid because Jesus had left them; they were afraid for their lives and they didn’t know what to do.
We keep seeing this lack of faith and trust in the lives of the apostles; at the same time, we see our own lack of faith and trust in the Lord Jesus. We look at our lives and we see our own sinfulness whether it manifests in anger, jealousy, or racism which we may feel and act on. No matter who we are or what our sins are, the Lord Jesus constantly sends us the Holy Spirit, the active and constant love between the Father and the Son. It is this dynamic and powerful love which filled the apostles with faith in the Lord Jesus and courage to break down those doors of the upper room and go out and live their faith.
Jesus tells the apostles “as the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Then he breathed on them, just as God the Creator breathed on His creation to bring it to incredible life. He then commands them to forgive. This Gospel passage is not exclusive to priests and bishops who can hear our confessions; this passage is for us too. Jesus sends us the Spirit to do the hardest thing most of us have to do: asking forgiveness of those we’ve hurt and to forgive those who have hurt us, even though they may not ask us.
At the end of the Second Reading, we hear we are one body in the Spirit; no matter whether we are Jew or Greek, slave or free; we are one in the Lord and we ‘drink of the one Spirit.’ No matter the color of our skin, or the accent by which we speak, we are one in the Lord and must treat each other the way the Lord treats us, with incredible love, tenderness, and mercy. Let’s try this week to be open to the Spirit in any way the Spirit leads us and let us again place those who we need to forgive and who are hardest to deal with, on the Altar and believe with courage and faith the Holy Spirit will empower us to answer the call of the Lord to send us out and live the life of the Lord Jesus.