By NEMS Daily Journal
unday’s celebration of Pentecost by millions of people worldwide continues an understanding of faith and God’s presence in the present dating to the beginnings of Christianity.
From a festival rooted in Judaism and the giving of the law, then brought forward by the church for 2,000 years, the Pentecost celebration underscores a perception that the Holy Spirit (God in Spirit) moved powerfully among people of faith on a particular day in real time, and continues now.
The meaning sadly is too often lost in heated theological divisions rather than the ongoing unity intended in the New Testament accounts.
An editorial in the May 31 edition of “America,” a nationwide Catholic magazine, offers a stirring reminder from recent faith history of how the Spirit, received in faith, removes barriers to faith.
“The first Pentecost is often described, poetically and theologically, as the birthday of the church. Almost 50 years ago, Pope John XXIII heralded the Second Vatican Council as a new Pentecost, and the council fathers and later theologians looked on it as a unique work of the Spirit in our times. Pentecost, however, is an ongoing event; God’s Spirit gives the church a new birth in every generation. With the Spirit working in us, we can be sure God will write new verses for the church to deliver. Pentecost is a time …. to take note of the varieties of gifts … The council reminded us that the Spirit bestows gifts on each of us for the good of all. … In intervening years, however, the very idea of a variety of (gifts) given for the good of the whole … has been depreciated,” the editors wrote.
They spoke for themselves but also expressed what many other Christians hope can happen through experiences of the Spirit now – and moving forward.
At the heart of the Pentecost understanding is a promise by Jesus, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you … I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” (from John 14)
If all people who claim to follow and believe in Jesus took his assurances to heart and lived in them, many of the problems between people everywhere would end.
The promise is for peace that is otherwise beyond our understanding and ability, and freedom from paralyzing fear, often the precursor of a violent, pre-emptive action or harmful response.
The language of the spirit, from the first day of Pentecost in the early Christian era, has been about understanding, acceptance, and unity – a universal language spoken in action and attitude as well as words.
The language of the Spirit is not difficult to understand because it is mystical but because it is transparently practical, requiring an open mind and an open heart to learn and to do what is new and better in all