Thursday, May 12, 2016


The Descent of the Holy Spirit - Albrecht Durer
Durer Descent of the Holy Spirit

The English word ‘enthusiasm’ does not, generally speaking, have religious overtones. It is most likely to be used in the context of sport or some personal interest. But in fact it comes from Greek words meaning a special kind of zeal or ardor that results from divine inspiration. This is exactly what the disciples display in this week’s passage from Acts. Overwhelmed by the Spirit of God, they showed such 'enthusiasm' that passersby stopped to stare, and concluded that people acting in that way must be drunk.

The Feast of Pentecost is observed six weeks after Easter and commemorates precisely  this event. Though it no longer has anything like the same profile as Christmas and Easter, even among practicing Christians, it is in fact a third major festival of the Christian year, and no less important than the other two. Why is it so important? The answer lies in today’s Gospel. The passage begins with a request – ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied’. Everyone who has any feel for religion can hear the deep longing that Philip expresses. But Christ’s answer  -- 'Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’ – contains a salutary reminder. We can fail to be satisfied with the truth.

A Dove Has Spread Her Wings and Asks for Peace - Primachenko Maria

The Spirit which took possession of the disciples, John tells us, was expressly sent by Jesus – ‘The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you’. It is in Truth, Peace and Love that this Holy Spirit is to be found.It is properly understood as a gift, but it is given not ‘as the world gives’. The spirit of truth, love and peace raises human beings to their finest level, but it does not lay any store by accomplishment, popular endorsement, or vindication in the eyes of the world. All of these are things on which both societies and individuals tend to fix, and that is why we are prone to reject the gift of Holy Spirit and keep on looking for something else.

The lesson to be drawn from this is that if this truly Holy Spirit is to ‘abide in us’, we must not' let our hearts be troubled 'by worldly desires, or 'be afraid' of worldly failure. Peter himself, of course, is a shining example of just what this means.

picture: A Dove Has Spread Her Wings and Asks for Peace -- Maria Primachenko (1982)

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