We the Church, an image of the Holy Spirit

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The Lord Is My Chef Easter Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Pentecost Sunday-B, 19 May 2024
Acts 2:1-11 ><]]]]'> Galatians 5:16-25 ><]]]]'> John 15:26-27, 16:12-15
Illustration from istockphoto.com.

Blessed happy birthday to everyone this Pentecost Sunday, the “birthday” or official coming out party of the Church! In the Ascension of Jesus last Sunday, we have an upward movement that was a “leveling up” in our relationships with God and one another, calling us to be light to rise.

Today’s Pentecost Sunday is opposite, a downward move that “presses” us to “spread” like in compressing a sandwich to make it wider or bigger, calling us to be small and be “dissolved” so we can be mixed or shared with others.

Sorry for sounding a recipe but that’s how we are all as the kingdom of God here on earth – the Body of Christ we His disciples make up as the Church in the power of the Holy Spirit whose very image is us.

When time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire hose in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.

Acts 2:1-4

Pentecost is not just an event in the past but a daily reality calling us to be “dissolved” in ourselves, to be little and small so that we can be one with others to be united in Christ through the Holy Spirit.

Being a Christian is being united, being one in Jesus; remove “Christ” in the word Christian, we are left with the letters -ian that stand for “I-am-nothing”.

That is why we as the Church is the image or icon of the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity promised by Jesus to come after His ascension. It is the principle of unity in the Trinity because the Holy Spirit is the love that exists between the Father and the Son. This union between the Father and the Son happens also among us, the community of believers despite our diversities and differences when we allow the Holy Spirit to empower us in our daily dying to ourselves that Jesus likened to the grain of wheat that falls to the ground in order to grow and yield bountiful harvest (Jn. 12:24-26). This is the reason why St. Paul calls us to live in the Spirit in the second reading:

I say, then: live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh. For the flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you may not do what you want… Now those who belong to Christ have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit. Let us not be conceited, provoking one another, envious of one another.

Galatians 5:16-17, 24-26

Jesus is inviting us today to go through daily Pentecost by allowing the Holy Spirit to “burn” us with its fire, to dissolve our old selves to become new in Him. It is a process of conversion, of daily dying in our flesh in order to build up His Church.

Here we go back to one of the central theme of Jesus of becoming like a child, becoming small which is true greatness because that is when we no longer live but Christ in us as St. Paul experienced. Today he tells us some of the works of our old self we must turn away from like “immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like” (Gal. 5:19-21).

See how all his examples lead to disunity and divisions instead of unity that is happening today. Some people call for inclusivity but the opposite happens as we get divided so sharply that anyone who opposes them is accused of “gaslighting” or worst, end up being “cancelled”! So sad that some people are exaggerating truth when in fact they are exaggerating themselves as new standards of truth, insisting themselves and their beliefs on us.

Why change the rules of grammar or beauty pageants or genders just because they are different? Worst, they want to change even religious feasts like Santacruzan or the praying of the Our Father! Where is the unity in diversity if there is one group insisting on themselves? What happens is a repeat of the Tower of Babel, not of the Pentecost.

Losing ourselves in the Holy Spirit does not hinder our search for truth. The Holy Spirit actually leads us to the whole truth of Jesus revealed in His coming but He is too big to be grasped wholly that He continues to unfold, telling us we can only arrive at truth when we think in Him, with Him, and through Him in the Holy Spirit.

“I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak wht he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.”

John 16:12-15

The key here is being small, being dissolved in the Holy Spirit to see the larger whole who is Jesus Christ found in the face of every person next to us. See how we find in the first reading the reality of the Church starting out big right away as “catholic” or universal when it began on Pentecost speaking all the languages of the world, uniting the peoples as one in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Stained glass of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove as background of the Chair of St. Peter in the Vatican in Rome; photo from wikipedia.

The Church never started small like a club spreading into federations to become one. We become a part of that big reality of the Church in Christ by becoming small, by being dissolved by the fire of the Holy Spirit by letting go of our selfish selves.

The Holy Spirit continues to come down to us in daily Pentecost explaining and revealing to us the truth of Jesus through the many events iand persons in our lives. When my mother was still alive, she was the only reason why I came home; but, after she had left us peacefully last week, I have realized I still have to come home for my family and relatives and friends. It is a process of dying in myself amid the pain of seeing her room empty, that she is gone.

Death, like the ascension of Jesus is not about replacing those who have left us but a Pentecost, of allowing the Spirit to come to make us smaller, to be one with those still with us to continue celebrating life. That is when we experience the “fruit of Spirit” like “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). When that happens, then we have the Church as well as our own family as an image and indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Let us pray:

Lord Jesus Christ,
make us aware of
the coming of the Holy Spirit
to us in our daily Pentecost;
keep us open and humble,
dissolve our selfishness,
our pride, our "flesh"
so that we may live in
the Holy Spirit
as the Church,
its very image
here on earth.
Amen. 
Have a Spirit-filled week ahead!
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