The Acts of the Apostles is the book in the New Testament that records the event of Pentecost and tells us about what effect it had on the disciples of Jesus. But the promise of Jesus to send the Holy Spirit to His disciples is recorded in the Gospels. In the Gospel of John this promise of Jesus forms part of His moving message to the disciples at the Last Supper. Jesus’ words identify that they will have to face many challenges – including persecution, rejection, fear, confusion, danger, prejudice and bigotry.
Yet, because they are to be Jesus’ witnesses, they will need to be people empowered by truth, inspired by hope and motivated by a genuine and generous love. The disciples of Jesus are to continue His work of reconciliation and peace. His disciples will not be left alone but will be filled constantly with the presence of the Holy Spirit to inspire, guide, strengthen, and encourage them to promote the Good News of our redemption. That is Jesus’ promise and He is always faithful. In each one of us that promise is made personally through Baptism, Holy Communion and Confirmation. That promise we see being fulfilled each and every day in our own lives and in the lives of others. To be practical witnesses of Jesus in the midst of conflict, division and turmoil is the particular challenge that serving members and their families are called upon to embrace.
Australians have a wonderful and well deserved reputation for responding enthusiastically to the needs of others in difficulty. We see this demonstrated in many different ways. We usually react with great generosity when others are in need of food, shelter, and medical assistance. We allow our feelings for those who are caught up in awful situations caused by natural disasters and accidents to motivate us into genuine expressions of support and empathy. And, increasingly, we are involved in situations where we can be a moderating influence in the face of social discord and civil unrest.
As we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost this year there are members of our Particular Church engaged in a growing number of deployments overseas into situations of turmoil, civil unrest and social strife. Their presence brings hope and the real possibility of a better life for others. Their presence is an example of determined perseverance in the presence of aggression and manipulation. Their presence is a real life example that the dignity of each human person – no matter what their state or condition – must be protected, upheld and honoured. The recent and rapid deployment to Timor-Leste is a clear example but it is not the only one.
At Pentecost this year let us pray especially for peace in all hearts and in all places. Let us pray that all our serving members may be kept safe and that their efforts will be fruitful. Let us pray that all members of our families will be strengthened and sustained by a special gift of an awareness of the presence of the Holy Spirit. Mary was present at the first Pentecost, may she be present with us in our prayers and efforts to be true witnesses of her son Jesus in all our endeavours.
† Max L. Davis
Bishop of the Australian Defence Force