Pentecost Sunday A
May 31, 2020
John 20: 19-23
By Rev. John Tran
Pentecost has finally arrived! There is something decisive about Pentecost. Even as we celebrated the Ascension last Sunday, the disciples are still in doubt about who Jesus is, what kind of Messiah he is, what his message is, and what they are to do about it all. They have seen Jesus go to the Father, and wondered what they were to do. But now, the Holy Spirit, the Advocate which Jesus had promised is here; there can be no doubt now about what they are to do: each disciple is to go forth from hiding in the upper room, and tell everyone he or she meets that Jesus has risen from the dead, that he has destroyed sin and death, and it is now possible for the Kingdom of the Father to come about. Then, the disciples go out and preach this good news and both Jews and foreigners can understand these poor, not so educated disciples. All this is to come about, not just in the time of the disciples, but here and now, today, it among us.
That’s fine, you say, but how does this affect me today in my life in the twenty-first century. Yes, I was baptized and confirmed, I go to the Eucharist and receive it; I suppose I have received the Holy Spirit. But come on now, I do not speak so that people can understand me, no matter what language they speak. Is this really so? Or do we do this in our own way that is very understandable in our time.
An old beggar lay on his deathbed. His last words were to his youngest son who had been his constant companion during his begging trips. “Dear son,” he said, “I have nothing to give you except a cotton bag and a dirty, medium sized, bronze bowl which I got in my younger days from the junk yard of a rich lady.” After his father’s death, the boy continued begging, using the bowl his father had given him. One day a gold merchant dropped a coin in the boy’s bowl, and he was surprised to hear a familiar clinking sound. “Let me check your bowl,” the merchant said. To his great surprise, he found that the beggar’s bowl was made of pure gold. “My dear young man,” he said, “why do you waste your time begging? You are a rich man. That bowl of yours is worth at least fifty thousand dollars.” We Christians are often like this beggar boy who failed to recognize and appreciate the value of his bowl. We fail to appreciate the infinite worth of the Holy Spirit living within each of us, sharing His gifts and fruits and charisms with us. On this major feast day, we are invited to experience and appreciate the transforming, sanctifying and strengthening presence of the Holy Spirit within us. This is also a day for us to renew the promises made to God during our Baptism and Confirmation, to renew our profession of Faith, and to begin anew practice it faithfully, every day.
This treasure of the Holy Spirit is with us, even if we often do not see it. We tend to look for only the flashy gifts, the ones that would make us stand out, that would make us noticed.
As individuals and as communities of believers, we are sometimes like the Corinthians in today’s reading. We use the gifts we have received from God to divide rather than unite. We prize some gifts over others. We think that more extraordinary gifts like ‘speaking in tongues’ or being a brilliant preacher or teacher are better evidence of the Spirit’s presence than the more ordinary gifts of administration or leadership either in the parish or that of a bishop exercising oversight of his diocese might have. By our personal and corporate scandalous behavior, we obscure the gospel message and make it difficult or sometimes impossible for non believers to accept.
Today’s readings, then, come both as a sober reminder and as a great relief! We have been created and re-created by the breath of God. We may not have the gift of ‘speaking in tongues’ or being understood by people who do not speak our language, but we speak in a new kind of tongues: the tongues of our right behavior, of our kindness and genuine concern for our brothers and sister in the faith, and for those outside it. We speak honestly and with compassion about the needs of others and then about God’s Good News. All these things proclaim the deeds of God so that all can understand and believe. It is more difficult to see the gold beneath the dirt of ordinary living.
We work for unity by putting an end to competition, strife, and divisions in out communities, and value each other’s God-given gifts. We can exercise the same power over sin that Jesus did, especially by the authentic and inviting witness of lives lived according to the truth about God, revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
All this may be accomplished when we are thankful for our dependence on God, rejoice that Jesus is Lord, accept Jesus’ Advocate in our lives to guide us, and offer ourselves willingly to help renew the face of the earth. And, all this is what bringing the Kingdom of God into existence is all about.