June 8, 2003
(Acts 2:1-11; Galatians 5:16-26; John 20:19-23)
Today we celebrate one of the great feasts of the year, and I thought we could
look at three questions: Do we want the Holy Spirit to come upon us this Pentecost
day? What does it mean to live in the Holy Spirit? What are we going to do differently
now that the Holy Spirit is coming upon us?
First, if you look at the story, it’s very dramatic, even scary, because
a driving wind with a loud noise comes roaring through the community, like the
storms we had this week, and then fire comes upon them, and their lives are completely,
totally disrupted. They are sent into town and start speaking out boldly about
Jesus and love and peace and resurrection, and denouncing the empire and its
violence, and announcing God’s reign of love and peace, and they all get
in trouble and eventually they get arrested, jailed and martyred.
Do you want this to happen to you? Of course you do! Deep down, we all want to
live in the Holy Spirit of Jesus. We’ve tried all the other spirits, the
evil spirits of the world, and they’re no fun. It’s just not worth
the aggravation and pain to be angry, grouchy, mean, bitter, resentful, and hateful.
Those spirits don’t make us feel good. They only make us fight with one
another and become violent and lead us to a world of war and nuclear destruction.
None of those evil spirits work. Let’s try the Holy Spirit.
St. Ignatius Loyola says that the key to the spiritual life is to discern the
spirits, to see whether we are living in the good spirit or an evil spirit and
we do that by noticing how things make us feel. If something makes us angry,
bitter, mean, resentful, and violent, if it doesn’t make us feel good,
then it’s not of the Holy Spirit, so we try to decide what is from the
Holy Spirit and do only those things and try to stay in the Holy Spirit.
That leads to the second question, “What does it mean to live in the Holy
Spirit of Jesus?” St. Paul says in his letter to the Galatians that we
are living in the Holy Spirit when we have the fruits of the spirit--love, joy,
peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
And the Gospel says that when the risen Jesus first appeared to his friends,
he said, “Peace be with you,” and then he said it again and breathed
on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” So to live in the Holy
Spirit of Jesus means to live and breathe in his spirit of peace, and to breathe
out his spirit of peace upon one another, to be at perfect peace with ourselves,
to find peace in our hearts, to feel at peace within us, to make peace with God
and our spouses, children, parents, neighbors, coworkers, everyone in town and
everyone everywhere, to reject anything that is not peaceful, and always be at
peace with one another.
Finally, how are we going to live differently now that the Holy Spirit of Jesus
is coming upon us again?
If like the disciples, we stay behind locked doors and live in fear of one another,
if we want to keep things the way they are, if we do not want to be open to Christ
in others; if we don’t care about those in need or try to love one another
or love our enemies or proclaim the Gospel; if we prefer to be mean and nasty
and impatient and angry and resentful and put each other down; if we want to
be violent and support war, then we are not living in the Pentecost. We are a
pre-Pentecost people, or worse, we are anti-Pentecost people who call down hellfire
upon our enemies, instead of the holy fire from heaven upon one another. That’s
why if we want to live in the peace of Pentecost, we have to dismantle all our
nuclear weapons, abolish war, and close down Los Alamos, Sandia, Kirkland, Lawrence
Livermore Laboratories and the Pentagon, and learn to live in the Spirit of active
The Holy Spirit is trying to change us, just as the Holy Spirit changed those
first disciples, and the scriptures invite us to be open to that change, to let
the Spirit come upon us and transform us.
So we have to choose to live in the Holy Spirit, choose to live in the peace
of the risen Lord with each other, choose to share the gifts of love, kindness,
and gentleness with others, choose to become more and more like Jesus now that
his Holy Spirit lives within us. So we have to continue to be people of prayer,
and our prayer these days is beautiful and dangerous and exciting:
“Come, Holy Spirit, send your driving wind upon us and blow away the cobwebs
in our hearts and minds and give us the fresh air of the breath of Jesus.
“Come, Holy Spirit, send your blazing fire upon us so that we may burn
with love and kindness toward each other and love every human being everywhere.
“Come, Holy Spirit, send us into town and into the world to share the love
of God with one another, to talk about Jesus with each other, to denounce the
evil spirits of violence, greed, war and death, and proclaim Jesus’ reign
of love, mercy, nonviolence and justice.
"Come, Holy Spirit, disarm our hearts and send us forth as your instruments
of disarming love to disarm our violent world.
“Come, Holy Spirit, fill us with the joy of the Lord, that no matter what
we’re going through, no matter what our problems are, we may always live
in the Spirit of Jesus.”
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