Pentecost is not just the culmination and end of the Easter Season but is celebrated as the birthday of the Christian Church. The day when we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit and the start of the Church’s mission to the world – the mission of the Baptised – the mission of the People of God – to be the hands and heart of Christ - the mission to bring people to God.
We hear of this in the Gospel, when the Risen Jesus comes to the disciples in the locked room bringing peace. He shows them his wounds, encouraging them to believe that he is indeed risen from the dead, and sends them out empowered by the Holy Spirit.
It’s relevant to us that Jesus comes to the disciples in a locked room. They had no idea what life would be like for them once they left that room. Would things return to normal? Would life just go on once Jesus left the scene? Was all this Jesus stuff just a passing phase that was now ready to evaporate into thin air – just as Jesus had evaporated before their eyes as he ascended into heaven?
Even the atheist knows that life, and the world, was never the same again after those disciples left that locked room and experienced the outpouring of the Spirit of Pentecost. History records this tiny Jewish sect, this bunch of disciples who found in the Risen Jesus their Saviour and Lord, lit a flame. A flame that would conquer a mighty empire – a flame that would ultimately encircle the world, embracing all nations and peoples.
We know it to be a flame of joy and hope, a flame of mercy, justice and compassion, a flame that burns with the fire of God’s love. Pentecost celebrates the Holy Spirit setting the People of God on fire – so that the world may be renewed.
No - the first disciples walked out of the locked room - and the world would never be the same – never return to normal.
This past week many of us have been leaving locked rooms. Some of us returning to work; children and teachers returning to school; we are again visiting family and friends; our churches are opening up for Mass and worship together. It’s only in small steps, there is still some trepidation and a lot of unknowns. We still don’t know what’s on the other side of the door.
What kind of world, society, church or community will emerge from this locked room caused by the coronavirus pandemic?
Somethings are certain:
If we think we can just return to normal, to the way things were, then we will have lost the greatest, and perhaps the last, opportunity to renew the face of the earth.
We will have lost the opportunity to renew ourselves.
We will have lost the opportunity to renew our relationships with God, with each other, with neighbour and stranger, with the planet that we call our common home.
This shutdown, this confinement to our locked rooms, has given us an opportunity and we must grasp it with both hands. We must walk through the locked door into a new day with faith, with hope and with love. Lighting again a flame that will encircle the world in renewal.
For Christian believers, filled with the Spirit of Pentecost, one thing is clear. True newness, true renewal, is always the work of God’s creative Spirit – and that creative Spirit is the Risen Christ’s gift to you.
Pope Francis said it in Laudato si’: ‘The Spirit of God has filled the universe with possibilities and, therefore from the very heart of things something new can always emerge’ (80).
More than ever, it is to the Spirit, ‘infinite bond of love . . . intimately present at the heart of the universe’ (238) that we must attend with all our might.
To pray as we do, especially at Pentecost, ‘Veni Sancte Spiritus - Come Holy Spirit - renew the face of the earth’ is to pledge ourselves to whole-hearted conversion. Spiritual conversion, economic and political conversion, ecological conversion; and a conversion of heart and mind that we may be instruments of the Spirit bringing in the Kingdom of God. A kingdom of justice, mercy, compassion, love and peace.
If the first disciples can walk through the locked door then so can we – the Spirit that set them on fire is the same Spirit dwelling within us. Harness that Spirit – the Spirit of the Risen Christ and walk free with a determination that things must not return to normal. Instead, demand a renewal of all things under the Lordship of the Risen Christ. Amen.