The Gospel of the Day – 2016.05.15
Receive the Holy Spirit
In the evening of the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.
‘As the Father sent me,
so am I sending you.’
After saying this he breathed on them and said:
‘Receive the Holy Spirit.
For those whose sins you forgive,
they are forgiven;
for those whose sins you retain,
they are retained.’
The New Creation
It is the feast of Pentecost.
It is a day that Christians throughout the world celebrate.
It is the commemoration of the gift of the Holy Spirit, given by Jesus, to the church that was founded in his name.
For the Church, this moment marks the beginning of a new era. Jesus is gone, and the community of believers is now in the hands of his disciples; primarily, and others who have heard the call, like Saint Paul, who never met him (in the flesh).
The final departure of Jesus, and the bequeathment of the Holy Spirit, is the beginning of the age of prophecy, it is a time of discernment; it is the Apostolic age. In it the Church evolves, it becomes a new creation. It is no longer merely a sect of Judaism, but it becomes an international movement, it spreads throughout the Roman Empire, and the new way is preached in new languages, in new tongues, in new stories; such that Jesus himself had never imagined.
Jesus preached the way of love, of service, of caring, of justice, of mercy; the way of Jesus can be lived in silence, it does not require words.
The myth of Pentecost, as related here in the Gospel of Saint John, narrates some of the struggles of the early Church. It was written more than one hundred years after the death of Jesus, and decades after the Romans destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem. It was written for the Church; in the era, when the differentiation among Christians and Jews was concrete, and when the leaders in the new movement were trying to establish their bona fides, as the heirs to Jesus’ ministry.
The gift of the Holy Spirit, released in a breath of ritual remembering; not the reception of something new, for the Spirit of God animates all living beings, but the acknowledgement of that reality in the passing on of Jesus’ mission.
The mission, to love, and care for, to serve those in the greatest need, to love justice, and be merciful in the face of the world’s horrors.
The passage from John would have been a fine place to end the gospels; except for the final words given to cement the authority of the church of the lives of the followers. The naked grab for power, that marks the new creation as one firmly rooted in the sinful world, and that is the way of things.