Pentecost Sunday. June 4, 2017 [John 20:19-23]
“Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them… (Jn 20:22-23)”
Pentecost is the commemoration of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the first disciples in the upper room. The usual images we have in our mind are usually dramatic and vivid. The disciples gathered in the upper room, suddenly the strong wind filled the room, followed by the appearance of the tongues of fire. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the disciples began to speak various languages, and proclaimed the Gospel. This depiction of Pentecost comes from the Acts of Apostles (our first reading today). The same Acts tells us that Pentecost took place 50 days after Easter Sunday (Pentecost itself simply means ‘50’ in Greek).
However, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in today’s Gospel from John gives us a slightly different image from that of the Acts. It is less dramatic, less lively, and less miraculous. There was no strong wind, no tongues of fires that rested on the disciples’ heads, no awesome ability to speak various languages. Only Jesus and His disciples. Yet, if we look closely on Jesus’ actions and words as well as the context of the story, the Pentecost that it represents is a poignant and transformative image.
The disciples locked themselves inside the room because of fear of the Jews. Their master just was executed, and they were afraid that the Jewish authorities and the Roman soldiers would also arrest them. But, it is also possible that they were actually afraid that risen Jesus would get back on them. They deserted Jesus when He was seized, persecuted and sentenced to death. They ran away when He was humiliated on the cross and died as a shameful criminal. It was a payback time, and Jesus could throw them to fire of hell in an instant. Yet, Jesus came not to exact vengeance, but to offer peace. He came not to satisfy His wrath, but to give them the Holy Spirit. This Spirit is the spirit of forgiveness, the power to heal, and the energy to unity. It also the Spirit of mission, of their being sent by Jesus. Indeed, Jesus bore the wounds in His body, but despite His wounds and pains, Jesus forgave them and empowered them to forgive in His Holy Spirit. Jesus showed them that violence only breeds violence, and vengeance causes more harm, and only forgiveness can bring true peace.
In our world today, many of us are hurt by violent words and actions of others, aggravated by the silence of good people. The natural tendency is to be angry and seek for justice. Yet, often, what happens is that we nurture the anger and hatred, and wait until the right time to vent this wrath in even more violent ways. But, keeping anger and hatred destroys nobody except ourselves. We become restless, stressed, and sick. Without realizing it, we become just like those who have hurt us. Pentecost is not just a commemoration of what happened in early Christianity, we need Pentecost right now and here. We pray for the Holy Spirit who empowers us to forgive others and ourselves, for the Spirit of Jesus who brings true peace and justice, for the Spirit of God who heals our brokenness.
Br. Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP