John 20: 19-23
Sunday Reflection by Sister Priscilla Aliu, SNDdeN
The feast of the Pentecost is the birthday and the inauguration of the church. The apostles in company of Mary received the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy gave the apostles a communal confirmation to publicly witness to Christ as his body – the church. The descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles confirms the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise of the Advocate, the Spirit of truth to his apostles. Their lives drastically took a new turn after they received the Holy Spirit. These same people, who were filled with fear of the Jews after the ascension of Jesus to heaven, became bolder, more energized, courageous, joyful and passionate about living and sharing the gospel of the good news of Jesus.
The effect of the Holy Spirit is forever liberating and amazing. Jesus gives his disciples peace, sends them out to spread the good news. Jesus breathes his own spirit upon them and empowers his disciples to forgive and retain sins. The Holy Spirit expanded the hearts of his disciples to embrace the gift of faith which would strengthen them since Jesus will no longer be with them physically. This same spirit is ever present in the church and in each of us. Sometimes, we are not really aware of the power of this special gift we receive at baptism and confirmation.
Just as the church has remained solid on the path of truth through the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit, so too will out hearts be fortified if we open ourselves to the spirit of God. Pentecost offers us another opportunity to rediscover our gifts and start doing something with them. The spirit helps us discern the Will of God in every situation of our lives. We must believe that God is always with us in good and bad times of our lives.
There can be no better time to seek the consolation of the Holy Spirit than now when the world is full of fears as humanity is ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic. Some people could easily lose sight of God’s presence in their lives because of the dark reality of the covid-19 on their family members. Our pains are very real these days: the pain from the death of loved ones, the feeling of loneliness, confusion, depression and even emptiness.
It may also be true that no one is able to feel the depth of another’s pain, as pain is experienced on a deep and personal level, but we can all identify with the collective pain we all feel right now in our world due to the pandemic. In times like these, the Holy Spirit comforts us as she comforted the disciples. Romans 8:26-27 re-assures us that the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for when we do not know how to pray as we ought , but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts knows what the intention of the Spirit is because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s Will.
Jesus knows and understands our present reality more than we can ever imagine. Remember, he learnt obedient through suffering that culminated to his death on the cross, but God rewarded him with the resurrection, the Easter story. The Pentecost story is a reminder that we too can overcome anything. Yes, we may be broken, scared and even feel hopeless, but, we must trust and be convinced that we have the same incredible spirit that raised Jesus from the dead within us. Let us courageously turn inward to the indwelling spirit of God within us to renew the powerhouse of our faith. We should not be afraid to reach out to the community of faith for support in times of distress. The church exists to help us through our earthly journey until we see our good God face to face in heaven.
St. Julie is a great example for us in our days, “In face of pain she could go on steadily and faithfully.” St. Julie once wrote “Those who have any faith are unshaken no matter what happens in life; we have to get used to seeing everything in God. Knowing that he permits it all: then everything is fine! Hold on! For if God is with us who can be against us?”
Jesus tells us once again that, “The Words I have spoken to you are Spirit and Life.” May he heal our every pain and bless us with the gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and the fear of the Lord. Amen.
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
Meet Sister Priscilla Aliu, SNDdeN