|The Vision of St Paul -- Nicholas Poussin (1649)|
In a profound way, the readings for this Sunday summarize and connect the origins, work and goal of the Church. In the Gospel, Jesus gives his followers an early indication of what will happen when he is no longer an earthly presence among them. He promises them a ‘Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name’ and who ‘will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you’. It is here, of course, as Jesus talks about himself, his Father and the coming Holy Spirit, that we find a Gospel basis for the Trinitarian theology that has been, and remains, the truly distinguishing mark of the Christian faith. Its principal importance, though, lies in the assurance that we, who never experienced the historic Jesus, can nevertheless encounter him in a Spirit of life that remains accessible to people in every age and place.
It is this same Spirit that prompts, and enables, Paul’s response to the famous dream in which someone in far off Macedonia calls to him to share a Gospel whose power and relevance must break all geographical and ethnic boundaries, and speak to the human soul that lies within everyone.
|Gate with a Tower: New Jerusalem - Lentulov|
Between the Gospel promise and the missionary Acts of Paul the Apostle, lies Revelation’s compellingly beautiful statement of the ultimate goal in which the work of the Spirit will culminate. What is striking about it, is just how God centered it is. The picture of the ‘heavenly’ Jerusalem that it paints, is not a paradise in which all our desires and needs are met, but one in which they are transformed and transcended within the Person of God. We now no longer need sunlight, or clean water, or political security, or even places of worship, because God’s presence will be so immediate that everyone ‘will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads’. This vision is no promise, of course, for those whose hearts are set on wealth and power as the world understands these. But to those who long for a full realization of the spiritual nature that God has planted in them, no more wonderful prospect could be imagined.