Pentecost 2019

We will make our home with you.

Dear sisters and brothers,

As the Feast of Pentecost draws near for this year I have been reflecting upon what that might mean for us in this age and in our present circumstances. I offer some of my reflections perhaps to excite your own.

Of course we are in the midst of our journey towards the Plenary Council. The process has already generated a number of offerings from members of our faith community – perhaps from you too – that have been shared very widely. The whole process is built around a foundation of “Listen to what the Spirit is saying”. Our faithfulness to the promptings of the Holy Spirit has its very beginning in this Feast. Rightly can and should we ask “What is the Lord asking of us?” and that is the basic question that many have responded to already. The dialogue between listening and speaking is a critical dynamic and it is most important that equal attention is paid to both elements. From my perspective I often find it easier to speak than listen and I wonder whether others share that tension too. Having had the opportunity to read some of the submissions and to listen to some of the conversations that the process has generated I am becoming more excited as the journey continues. In part that is because my awareness that the Holy Spirit prompts many to speak and I have really been inspired by the generosity, insights and love of community that has been expressed.

The readings from the Sacred Scriptures during these last weeks have been recounting some of the activities of the first disciples and they reveal to us some of the challenges facing them and how they addressed them. It was rarely easy – spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, socially or even physically – for those first disciples to fulfil the mission they had received and accepted. To be witnesses to the new understanding of God’s love for his people was a very difficult task. But the Scriptures reveal to us their determination, perseverance and dedication. What sustained this motley bunch? They must have felt at times that their mission was doomed to failure, that it was too difficult, or that they were inadequate. They had nothing going for them in the material sense. The society around them were most times less than eager, attentive or supportive. Many felt this new bunch were weird. Some felt that they were mad. There were those who were determined to get rid of them from the society – for a number of reasons. And there were those who thought they were dangerous to the common good and the well-being of society. Many also took great offence at the message of the Good News because was not ‘orthodox’ and was offensive to the beliefs that they had received and treasured. All this is in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Pastoral Letters. The experience of the first disciples, although the context might be different, is an experience shared by all the disciples of Jesus right down through the centuries and into our own day. The same things that sustained that motley bunch are the same things that sustain this motley bunch.

At the heart of it has always been discipleship of the Lord Jesus. During these same days we have been reading a great deal from the text of John’s Gospel – particularly where Jesus is revealing to us the gift and workings of the Holy Spirit. This year one of the expressions that has occupied a lot of my reflection has been the use of the term “we will make our home”. Some scholars tell us that the parent language is better translated as “we will live within your tent”. The notion that Father, Son and Holy Spirit will enter into our home (our tent) has a very intimate connotation that is new in the revelation about God brought to us by Jesus. God enters our home as part of the whole family environment with all the elements that one finds there – hopes, joys, sadnesses, dreams, prospects, challenges, satisfactions, disappointments, difficulties, concerns, conflicts, etc. God shares every element of our life with us – even the untidiness and messiness. Jesus tells us that energising all of that is the gift of the Holy Spirit as teacher, reminder, sanctifier, strengthener, and inspirer.

Let us welcome wholeheartedly this divine gift and hold it as the foundation upon which we can continue to be disciples in our own age. This was the foundation upon which the first disciples – and their successors – built their acceptance of their mission and from which they drew all the strength needed to be witnesses to the Good News of our Redemption. The Holy Spirit provides the ongoing impetus to the earthly home of God with us past, present and, importantly today, into the future. Faithfulness has always demanded fidelity to what has been transmitted from Jesus about our relationship with God. That fidelity can only come from remaining selflessly open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit always being careful to listening to those promptings and insights. True we need to address the issues of our own day with vigour. But in the context of history we must draw reassurance that the Holy Spirit has inspired the Church in every age and will do so in our own time.

May the Blessed Mother, Mary, Help of Christians, present at the first Pentecost accompany us with her intercession as we welcome again the Holy Spirit to inspire our mission.

+Max L Davis
Bishop
Military Ordinary