Discerning the Holy Spirit
Last Sunday we talked about the importance of focusing on Jesus’ own words in the Gospel. One of the last things Jesus prayed to his Father for (in the hearing of his disciples at his last supper with them) was “that they all may be one.” The unity of all those who would come to believe in him was paramount in Jesus’ mind “so that the world may believe that you sent me.” When people today see the believers in Jesus, divided into so many denominations competing with each other, they oftentimes throw up their hands and, in good conscience, slip into agnosticism or even atheism.
Yet today we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, the sending into this world the promised Holy Spirit of God to lead, guide, and empower Jesus’ believers to witness God’s presence in the world. The Holy Spirit is the source of unity in the Church: ekklesia, those “called out” to be a sign of the truth of the Gospel.
The Holy Spirit works in those who are open to God’s action in their lives and because “the Spirit blows where it wills,” it’s not the sole possession of any person or denomination. Yet at the same time, we’re not talking about an “invisible” reality, but a visible one of unity built on mutual forgiveness and love.
Today’s scriptures help us be able to discern the Presence of the Holy Spirit in the world in our personal lives, families, among believers, in ever widening circles of belief and love. In Genesis, chapter 11, we read the story of the Tower of Babel: how humankind attempted to build a tower to heaven. Their pride told them that they could do this without the help of any God. (This is a metaphor for our world. We try to do the same in our own day, when trying to achieve our goals without reference to God.) The people who built the tower spoke the same language and were willing to sacrifice the lives of their fellows in this effort. God seeing their pride, allowed their language to be confused, and the city and Tower was never completed and all the inhabitants of that time were scattered and developed their own languages. This story explains the state of the world and the separation of people into their own lands and countries and working toward their own “sovereign” interests, with little regard for The Sovereign, Almighty God. This has led, on the level of nations and individuals, endless war, the taking of life, harsh words, insults, slanders, neglect, and gossip.
Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit, is God’s attempt to “reverse” the status quo that the Tower of Babel story accepts. The disciples are gathered together at Pentecost, 50 days after Passover, behind locked doors depressed and fearful. The Holy Spirit comes upon them, symbolized as “tongues of fire,” and emboldens them to go out and tell all people of God’s love and forgiveness and Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Everyone hears the message in their own language and many come to believe. In the power of the Holy Spirit, the disciples/Apostles go out to the four winds to bring this Good News to the whole world, gathering people who have been scattered and bringing them together to love one another, forgive each other, and give thanks to God: revealed as a loving, merciful Father, Jesus, the Son of God, and the Holy Spirit of love who gathers and never scatters.
This is the principle of discernment of the Holy Spirit’s presence: When people gather in ever greater concentric circles of mutual love and forgiveness the Spirit of God is there. When people are scattered and divided by their own pride, greed, and willfulness, they give in to the temptation of the Evil One. The Evil One tries to keep people at enmity with one another, unwilling to love or forgive, and driven to retaliation for loss and hurt. The value of human life, the very gift of God, is lessened and easily sacrificed for selfish ends. People are gathered, yes, but they gather, unfortunately, “over and against” their fellow human beings.
The Holy Spirit is The Gatherer, par excellence, bringing people of all persuasions and cultures together in companionship based on love and forgiveness. Where the Holy Spirit is present there is always a note of deep joy, even in the midst of ongoing struggles and atmospheres of disunity and mistrust. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit will succeed, accomplishing the work it was sent to do, slowly, but surely, making God’s love visible in the world. Each time we gather for the Holy Eucharist, with all our shortcomings and sins, we open ourselves and ask for a fresh renewal of the Holy Spirit in our lives and are sent out to be signs of God’s presence in our community and world.
Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English, Anglican Communion) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.
|The Reverend John Smith, Vicar|
5235-6674 cell telephone (502 country code)
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|The Most Reverend Julio Murray, Archbishop and Primate, IARCA|
|The Right Reverend Silvestre Romero, Bishop of Guatemala|