Today we celebrate the birthday of the Church. Today we hear that the disciples were gathered with Mary in the Upper Room. In the Gospel it tells us that Jesus breathed on his disciples and said, ‘receive the Holy Spirit.’ This connects with the Book of Genesis where it tells us that ‘the Spirit of God breathed on the waters.’ In Genesis it is all about creation. In the Gospel it is all about recreation. Renewing the face of the earth is all about uniting people as one.
Over the past few weeks at our weekday Mass, we have been reflecting on Jesus’ farewell address from John’ Gospel. In that farewell address Jesus prays to his Father that all his followers might be united. The strength of community when we come together to worship is not in numbers. Rather it is in how united we are.
In a recent conversation someone said to me, ’when I pray for the Church, I pray for two things. I pray that the Church will be holy and that it will be a Church for the poor.’ In the Creed we pray ‘we believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.’ Holiness might be a word that we do not feel comfortable with. Too often it is associated with either leading a monastic type of existence or keeping the rules. I believe that true holiness is motivated by a love for God which in turn motivates us to serve others as love of God and neighbour are inseparable.
In a few days’ time children from our Parish will receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. This will complete their process of initiation into the Church. It is where these young people will appropriate for themselves the promises that their parents made on their behalf at their baptism. Transitioning through to full membership in the Church reminds us that none of us are meant to live the spiritual life on our own. Rather we are called to live it in communion with others. This is the only way unity and holiness can be achieved. They cannot be created in a vacuum.
The current conflict between Hamas and Israel is one of many instances that remind us that the world is not united. This was the same situation for the disciples. Upon receiving the Holy Spirit, they were asked to go out and spread the Gospel of unity to a volatile world that was fraught with conflict.
As we celebrate Pentecost today let us pray that we may access the gift of the Spirit which was given to us in the Sacrament of Confirmation. Let us pray that we may have the strength like the disciples to step out and preach a Gospel of unity to a world that desperately needs it. As our foundation let us strive for holiness in communion with others.