Many of us know friends who are generous, perhaps impulsive or unpredictable. They can be extremely loyal but a bit of a “coward” so that you can’t always depend on them. They may show occasional flashes of brilliance but they are generally thick-headed. Others say that they mean well, but they are losers. However, let us say these friends change overnight and instead of impulsive they become aggressive; instead of unpredictable, they are now reliable and brave rather than cowardly. Now they are open to new ideas, listen and evaluate.
If all this happened, you would wonder what happened to change them from a loser to a winner. You would want to know what force built their good points and corrected their bad ones. The person that I am thinking of who fits in all these categories is St. Peter. When we read about him in the Gospel, he is pretty much the loser. However, when we read about him in Acts, he is transformed into the kind of leader that the early church needed.
The reason for the change is clearly the event we heard about in today’s first reading – the coming of the Holy Spirit. The same kind of transformation took place in the life of that other great leader, St. Paul. Before his conversion and his reception of the Spirit, Saul was an extremely dedicated person, but with a closed intolerant mind, ready to persecute those whose beliefs challenged his. He was a brilliant student of the law, but could calmly watch his peers stoned to death.
After receiving the Holy Spirit Paul was still energetic and brilliant, but he became a warm understanding person. God knows each of us needs a lot of transforming. The fact that we are Christians does not mean that we automatically act consistently in a Christian manner. God knows that we still have many rough edges just like the Apostles. Jesus kept promising them that He and the Father would send the Spirit to help teach, strengthen and comfort them.
That initial arrival of the Spirit we commemorate today. The amazing effect the Spirit had on the members of the early church is what is written in the Acts of the Apostles. The Spirit does not try to transform us into some sort of ideal Christian so that each of us is a carbon copy of the other. Note how different Peter and Paul are from each other and how each of them retrains his unique personality and gifts. The role of the Spirit is to strengthen the good each of us has within so that each of us will mirror Christ in our unique way and make our contribution to the building up of Christ’s Body, which is the church.
Many of you are sitting asking yourself, “With all the Christians in the world or in this Parish, why isn’t Christ more visible? Where is the Holy Spirit today?” The answer to these questions involves another question.
“Why do I and most people I know resemble the Apostles before Pentecost, rather than after it?” The answer to this question is that God never forces His gifts on anyone. Many times, unfortunately, we do not let His Spirit into our lives. Perhaps it is because we do not think we will enjoy being truly Christian, generous, loving, and full of reverence for others. Maybe we are just afraid of any change in our lives even if the change is for the better. Whatever the reason all of us can admit that we often block the action of the Spirit within us.
Sometimes we deliberately fill our lives with distraction. We would rather be bored then speak to God or take the time to read the bible. If you want to see what the Holy Spirit can do look at the Apostles on the first Pentecost. One moment they were a handful of ordinary workingmen hiding behind locked doors of fear and the next moment they have flung themselves into the heart of Jerusalem.
They preach Christ crucified to the people who crucified Him. The Holy Spirit had become the moving force in their lives. It is a tremendous thing this gift of God to you: The same Holy Spirit hovered over the waters when God made heaven and earth. The same Holy Spirit spoke through the Old Testament prophets. The same Holy Spirit overshadowed a young girl and made her the Virgin Mother of God. The same Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles in tongues of fire and transformed cowards into heroes.
The same Holy Spirit is the soul of the church, who keeps the church Holy and free of error. That Holy Spirit dwells within you. Yes, He can transform your lives, this Holy Spirit if you will only let Him. Part of that transformation is something we rarely realize. Do you remember the words of Christ? “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you, not as the world gives do I give to you.” This is your peace this gift of God to you, this Holy Spirit.
The realization that God loves you, God lives in you. This peace no one can take from you. Christ invites us to open our lives our hearts and minds to the working of His Spirit. So that we can ask….Lord, send forth your Spirit to renew the face of the earth.