In our uniqueness, the Lord calls each of us to repent and be reconciled to God for our own salvation and for the good of all.
By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
While the nations rage the church eloquently proclaims in Pentecost faith: Lord Jesus, you came to gather the nations into the peace of God’s Kingdom. You come in word and sacrament to strengthen us in holiness. You will come in glory with salvation for your people. As we strive faithfully to fulfill the Great Commission of the Lord to make disciples of all the nations, we also embrace the enormous task of building the Kingdom of Heaven on earth wherever the Gospel is proclaimed, the signs of which are justice and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17)
The Holy Land upon which Jesus and his first disciples crisscrossed announcing the Kingdom of God, tragically remains relentlessly tormented by hatred, violence and warfare. The truce that ended the latest round of malice is as fragile as a birds’ nest in the midst of hungry predators. Yet, as disciples of the Lord in a universal church, the Holy Spirit impels us to overcome complacency and indifference, cynicism and despair for the sake of the common good and the salvation of all.
God’s dream for our world through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is both deeply personal and inexorably universal. In our uniqueness, the Lord calls each of us to repent and be reconciled to God for our own salvation and for the good of all. This is a life lived in communities of faith in a world-wide church where uniqueness and diversity are intended to create bonds of unity. We look at the division in our church, nation and world and we wonder if unity and diversity are forever going to be out of reach.
When snared by this chaos, the Holy Spirit always redirects us back to Jesus and the power of the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension the divine outpouring in the first place. In the reading from Paul’s letter to the Galatians (5:19ff) on Pentecost Sunday, after acknowledging the darkness that dwells within each one of us, he illustrates the fruits of the Holy Spirit and the fountain from which they well up.
“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. For if we live by the Spirit, let us walk also by the Spirit. Let us have no self-conceit, no provoking of one another, no envy of one another.” (5:24-25) It’s a big – if – that determines how we walk. It will determine whether we can create unity while cherishing diversity, or whether we will wallow in division, or worse, the violence, terror and war among nations.
In the midst of enormous divisions among the early Christian community in Corinth, marred by lawsuits, sexual immorality, disregard for the poor, abuses at the Lord’s supper, factions, and denial of the resurrection, to name a few, St. Paul remained steadfast in his belief that the Holy Spirit could bring divine order out of chaos. “There are a variety of gifts, but the same Spirit; there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; there are varieties of workings, but it is the same God who inspires them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1Cor12:4-7)
What follows is a piece of the most heralded testimony ever composed on love. St. Paul penned it, “the more excellent way.”
“Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (13:4-6) The Holy Spirit gave the Corinthians a way out of their chaos, and a path forward for every Christian community for all time, one generation to the next.
Historians and biblical scholars can puzzle over the Holy Spirit’s coming and its meaning 2000 years ago. But for those of us engaged in Christian ministry and outreach, there can be no doubt that the language being spoken then — and now — is the one any person can understand. It is the language of the Gospel, the Good News. It is the language of love. Yes, this is why Pentecost lives on.
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of thy faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of thy love.