Gospel: John 20:19-23
(Reflection from Pentecost 2015)
"May the Force be with you,” advise the Jedi Warriors, Guardians of the Galaxy in the popular blockbuster movie series of Star Wars. This new expression nudged its way into our language and seemed to settle comfortably into almost every conversation. It was a blessing of luck or general good will when individuals parted ways or when warriors were to face some sort of imminent challenge.
The Force was the unseen but discernible source of a Jedi’s power, an energy field created by all living things. It surrounded them and penetrated all things. It bound the galaxy together. Certainly Director George Lucas was influenced by particular elements of mythology, philosophy, and theology.
In today’s readings, there are two different stories describing God’s Force - the coming of the Spirit. No matter what the details are, the Spirit of God will propel these men and women beyond locked doors, and they will be filled with a newfound confidence in the message they are to preach as they carry forward the reign of God.
First, let us contemplate the Gospel. It is Easter Sunday evening, and the disciples are hiding in fear in an upper room behind locked doors. This same upper room is where Jesus encouraged them to not let their hearts be troubled and to believe in him, and they would do great works.
Now they are waiting, listening, pondering what to do next with their lives. As followers of Jesus, they are terrified of the authorities who may come to take them away as recognizable collaborators of Jesus. They fear they may have to face arrest or something even worse. They pray, puzzled over what was and what will be, wondering if they have been fooled. They ask one another: Are you sure the tomb was found empty? Are you sure it was him on the road to Emmaus and in the sharing of bread?
Suddenly, Jesus stands before them. He gives them the usual Jewish greeting ‘Shalom;’ but here, it is filled with a deeper meaning, a driving force. He blesses them with Peace, instilling an energy of excitement and joy that breaks through their worrisome spirits.
He breathes on them, and God’s Force, the Spirit – the Spirit that hovered over the chaos, the Spirit that incarnated the Word within Mary’s womb – now with laser like motion, soars over and within the disciples, and they are released, unshackled, set free . . . They will move from terror and hiding to speaking out boldly. His vision becomes their vision. His power to heal and forgive is their power. They no longer can be contained, nor can their spirits be restrained.
There is no more hiding in upper rooms . . . they will stand among the people in the streets. No more recoiling behind locked doors, they will preach boldly in the Temple. They are transformed from shared fear and insecurity to being empowered with one mind and heart.
They will be accompanied with the “surround sound” of the winds of change to preach the mission of Jesus, and thus, "all will hear them babble about the love of God and all will understand."
In our First Reading from Acts (which is usually called the Gospel of the Holy Spirit), Luke presents us with a scene in an upper room, 50 days after the Resurrection event.
The disciples are all in one place, when a noise like a driving wind fills the house, the space ablaze with the fire of God’s presence, and they are filled with the Spirit. They begin speaking in different languages, proclaiming the mighty acts of God. The Spirit has moved in the people as well, gifting them with a hearing and understanding of the amazing works of God.
Just as the Spirit drove Jesus into the desert, here, the Spirit drives his disciples into a galaxy of streets, villages, towns, cities, countries, and lands far, far away from Jerusalem.
They now move forward with a power and courage to withstand the imminent challenges as they are bound together in the Spirit, preaching the reign of God – God’s mighty Guardians of the Word equipped, strengthened, and propelled by the Force of the Spirit.
So is that all there is? One author writes, “The wind and fire ushering in the Spirit in Acts may be the most dramatic, but it is not the only sending of the Spirit of holiness into the community of the world. Pentecost is a timeless event that happens each time the breath of the Spirit reanimates a community with fiery passion that further commits it to advancing God’s reign of justice in the world.”
Who of us then cannot forget the fiery passion we experienced as John XXIII opened the Second Vatican Council in 1962?
And each time we come together to pray, to celebrate, to elect leadership, to ponder what’s next for our future, are we not of the work of the Spirit?
Who of us then cannot forget the most recent awareness of the animation of the Spirit as women religious came together in conversation, in mind and heart as we experienced the Apostolic Visitation?
And each time Pope Francis breaks through boundaries and barriers of “we’ve always done it this way” – does not the Spirit reanimate the community? Let us recall that last October he called on the world’s priests to bring the healing power of God’s grace to everyone in need, to stay close to the marginalized, and to be “shepherds living with the smell of the sheep.”
The feast of Pentecost animates us with the fire of passion, conviction, and commitment to the reign of God. We truly are changed when we live a Spirit-filled life as Pentecosted people. We are invited each day to live out the gifts of the Spirit in our words, our thoughts, and through our very being.
Each time when our words promote understanding, forgiveness, hope, and joy ~ we live Pentecost.
Each time our way of being makes it a little easier for others to feel included ~ we live Pentecost.
Each time as we participate in the mission of Jesus, and continue to grow in our awareness that we, too, are among the needy and are enriched by those we serve ~ we live Pentecost.
Each time we are willing to unlock the places in our minds and hearts that keep us as individuals, and as a faith community from responding to the injustices in our world ~ we live Pentecost.
Each time as a community of believers, we entrust ourselves to the mission of the Spirit and collaborate to create healing, harmony, and wholeness among the peoples of our world and in all of creation ~ we live Pentecost.
Let us pray: May the Force – the Spirit of God be with us always!