On Pentecost Sunday/ Fr Robin Gibbons

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Peace is not merely the absence of violence; it is the presence of justice!
(Corey Booker)

The most striking thing, at least to me, about that first Pentecost is the description of utter turmoil and noise accompanying the Spirit's approach, it bursts into locked rooms to get it open, comes as a noisy wind disturbing all, a ball of fire that descends on each, of chattering and noise, different languages, which suddenly make sense, but of what? Well as those who heard said, of powerful things, of 'the mighty acts of God' ( Acts2:11)

There is a real danger in Christianity that we can become too self-referential and focus on the sacrificial and redemptive actions of the Saviour in the wrong way. How you might ask? By passivity, taking a particular manner of response, what people call 'being nice' and turning it into a total manner of being:

"I turn the other cheek,

because Lord, I am meek,

And humble do not dare,

At my neighbour now to stare,

But miss the face of Christ,

whom I must seek!"

A slight poetic parody I wrote, which expresses that style of calm, quiet, humility that in its meekness misses the face of Christ in others. No, for me as for many the Spirit is anything but passive, in fact becomes a force to reckon with, a force that brings the mighty acts of God into being! .

I am struck this Pentecost at just how fragile we all are. The Coronavirus (Covid 19) has challenged ways of life across the globe and will continue to do so (as an aside I plead with you to take care and still stay safe, it has not gone away, so we must remain vigilant and live within the safety parameters). In some ways, not that I wish to trumpet this analogy, the Virus has been a negative gift that produces positive fruits, for it has returned, and is returning, to its rightful place the fact of bodily death in its rawness to face death again and deal with it. With the loss of loved ones the sense of fragility and passing, the absence of others at deathbeds has drawn us into other expressions of grief and support. It has brought out of hiding many whose faith and love for others has been heroic, blessed peoples sense of really needing friendships and family, it has made us appreciate a springtime like none other and with it, wildlife, earth, clean air and water. Yet it poises the sword of Damocles above our heads, asking us what are we now going to do? How will we really tackle the manifold injustices, the rape and plunder of this planet, our wilfull, wanton destruction of nature, our denials, our inequality.

I'm not being hyperbolic, this is all real, and this Pentecost perhaps more than any other in our life time, we are faced with a very real challenge of metanoia, that primary call of Christ to turn away from sin and live the Gospel. If we have the strength and insight to stop calling this virus 'an enemy that we do battle with', but rather the negative response of a world tired of what we have done wrong, all of which we must truly understand and respect, we begin to sense ways to deal with the reality of Covid 19, ways of getting on with a changed way of life, but in a different direction. This is a different type of Pentecost, and the Spirit is in it, with us, with our Earth. The Responsorial Psalm at the main Mass of the day puts this before us:

' If you take away their breath, they perish
and return to their dust.
When you send forth your spirit, they are created,
and you renew the face of the earth'. (Ps 104:31,34)

Isn't this what we are experiencing, in a strong visual way the dying of Covid had their breath sucked out of them, and with it the perishability of our individual lives, more, for the chaos of our brokenness, race riots across the USA today, endemic corruption in so many states, leaders who are mendacious, corrupt and cruel, place before us a sorry litany of what we have done wrong.

But now, this Pentecost, with so much of the trappings of faith taken away, we go back to basics, to our frightened communities, our closed rooms and hearts. There with nothing to hide behind, the Risen Lord comes and breaks down our barriers and says to each one of us, 'Peace be with you'. Senator Cory Booker in a TV interview yesterday, discussing the rioting after the death of George Floyd and the issue of systemic racism, endemic in a society that has now been named and shamed, said very simply: 'Peace is not merely the absence of violence, it is the presence of justice'.

There we have it, the Risen Lord breathes on us the Spirit who hovered over chaos at creation to name and love us into relationships,, but whose real gift to us today, if we but open ourselves up- is that fire of love, wind of change, and the power of justice!

Come Holy Spirit, Come!

Reflections

Prayer for Pentecost

Spirit, noise, wind, fire, blow into our lives to burn away the traces of selfishness, aggression and malice, filling us with the white heat of Your love.

Cleanse our world from its pain, suffering and anguish, not only for the human family but for all living creatures who share this world our common home.

Forgive us for our neglect, the sins of omission, and our destruction and cruelty, our sins of commission, for they have scarred so many things.

Today and everyday renew our commitment to justice, our growth in integrity, our communicating in truth.

Help us see this Pandemic as a wake up call, to encourage us to use our gifts for the common good of all, raise up in the Church, true prophets of the Kingdom.

We ask this through your people's insistent prayer, day and night, that what is divided may be united in love, that we may understand each other and our world the more to cherish all.

Come Holy Spirit, from our chaos bring the right order of Gods Kingdom. Amen

Fr Robert Gibbons 31 May 2020

St Francis, inspired by the Holy Spirit, preaches to his sisters the Birds:

"My sweet little sisters, birds of the sky," Francis said, "you are bound to heaven, to God, your Creator. In every beat of your wings and every note of your songs, praise him. He has given you the greatest of gifts, the freedom of the air. You neither sow, nor reap, yet God provides for you the most delicious food, rivers, and lakes to quench your thirst, mountains, and valleys for your home, tall trees to build your nests, and the most beautiful clothing: a change of feathers with every season. You and your kind were preserved in Noah's Ark. Clearly, our Creator loves you dearly, since he gives you gifts so abundantly. So please beware, my little sisters, of the sin of ingratitude, and always sing praise to God."

Laudato Si

Pope Francis

13. The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change. The Creator does not abandon us; he never forsakes his loving plan or repents of having created us. Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home. Here I want to recognize, encourage and thank all those striving in countless ways to guarantee the protection of the home which we share. Particular appreciation is owed to those who tirelessly seek to resolve the tragic effects of environmental degradation on the lives of the world's poorest. Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded.

14. I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all. The worldwide ecological movement has already made considerable progress and led to the establishment of numerous organizations committed to raising awareness of these challenges. Regrettably, many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also because of a more general lack of interest. Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions. We require a new and universal solidarity. As the bishops of Southern Africa have stated: "Everyone's talents and involvement are needed to redress the damage caused by human abuse of God's creation". All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents.

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