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Homily Pentecost

For the last fifty days, we have been celebrating Easter. Scripture readings, prayers and responses, hymns for this time of year all encourage us to a focused reflection on the resurrection of Christ.  Resurrection faith is, in some ways, very simple. The crucified Jesus returns to us, alive once more, victorious over sin, triumphant over death. His victory is offered to us as our victory; by faith, through baptism, we share in his resurrection. 

In other ways, though, resurrection faith is neither obvious nor easy. It took time for the first disciples to recognise the truth about the risen Christ, and it took even more time for them to become confident in sharing the good news of his resurrection with strangers. 

It takes us time too. We need time to process, time to reflect, time to share our experiences and to grow in confidence as disciples. The wisdom of the Church is that we need to do this in a focused way every year, through the fifty days of the Easter season. But time is not enough. 

In today’s reading from St John’s Gospel, we read some words of Jesus to his disciples in the final hours before his arrest. Jesus tells them to wait. But not just to wait. The commandment is to wait for something, or rather someone. 

In this reading that someone is called both “the Advocate” and the “Spirit of Truth.” Jesus is talking about the Holy Spirit. The promise of the Holy Spirit was fulfilled dramatically on the first Christian Pentecost. The full story is in the book of Acts. Everything that Jesus promised the disciples before he died came true that day.

People who were still struggling to understand what had happened to Jesus were given wisdom and understanding by the Spirit of Truth. People who were fearful and defensive were given reassurance, courage, and power by the Comforter. God was glorified in their inspired witness. 

Sometimes the word “Pentecostal” is used to describe a particular kind of Christian, or a specific kind of Christian worship. That’s fine, up to a point, but we shouldn’t forget that in another sense all Christians are Pentecostal. When we say in the Creed that we believe in the Holy Spirit, we are connecting ourselves with that first Christian Pentecost. 

 

Day by day, week by week, all of us struggle to figure out what being a Christian is all about. What do the life, death and resurrection of Jesus mean for me, in my life, today? How can I connect myself to events that happened so long ago, that are so hard to understand? And how can I find the courage to speak to my friends and family about my faith in the risen Christ? 

The best way that I have found to imagine the Holy Spirit, is how many of the ancient Christian mystics imagined it, and that is as the Kiss of God. God’s Spirit is that place where the love of God touches my life. A spirit by definition does not have bodily form. It is not a concrete thing. Therefore, the Spirit of God is adaptable and can adjust itself to our personal conditions. In other words, the Spirit of God can reshape itself to meet the contours of our lives.

The good news of Pentecost then, is that there is no place, no situation in which we find ourselves, into which the Spirit of God cannot come. Are you a sinner? The Spirit of God comes to you in your sinfulness and prompts you to repentance. Have you experienced grief? The Spirit of God comes to you in your sorrow and plants a seed of hope. Have you lost the zest for living? Is everything ordinary and routine? The Spirit of God comes into your heart and opens your eyes to see the wonder of creation. Are you sick? God’s Spirit comes to you in your fear and opens your heart to live each day and surrender yourself to God.

There is no place into which the Spirit of God cannot come. There is no circumstance which the Spirit of God cannot enter. The good news of Pentecost is that God takes the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection and adapts it to match the conditions of our lives. This is God’s promise. This is God’s intention. This is God’s gift. To make sure that in every time and place the kiss of the Holy Spirit will always fit our lips.

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