Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Gathered In One Place

When we read the Bible, we have to pay attention to every word, phrase and image. Because Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit, it is charged with the fathomless wisdom of God. The more we read it, the more we ponder every word and sentence, the more we memorize and reflect on it, the deeper we drink of the profound truths of faith. So, when we sit down in our homes to read the Bible or when we hear it proclaimed at Mass, we need to pay attention to words that may even seem to have little to do with the story.

This is particularly true today as we celebrate and reflect on Pentecost - when the Holy Spirit came down upon the Apostles, Mary and the other disciples. The reading from the Acts of the Apostles is full of spiritual riches for us.

Saint Luke tells us that, when the day of Pentecost came, “they were all in one place together.”

What place were they at? They were in the upper room which is also sometimes called “The Cenacle.” The first time we hear about this upper room is at the Last Supper when Jesus ate the passover there with the apostles and gave us the gift of the Eucharist. It was at this upper room that, while Jesus was being crucified and put to death, the disciples hid in fear. After the Resurrection, our Risen Lord would appear to the disciples in this upper room twice. We remember that He appeared to them on Easter Sunday to show them that He was truly alive, however Thomas was not with them. He then appeared the following Sunday when Thomas was with them so that he could see the Risen Lord for himself. Now this upper room would be the place where they would experience the Risen Lord in a new way, through the work of the Holy Spirit.

This upper room, then, was a very blessed place for those who loved Jesus. It was a place of sorrow and fear that became of place of blessing. It was a place from which everything that Jesus did seemed to have been lost which, within a few days, became the pulsing center of the life of the Church He founded. From this place, the message of the Risen Lord and the good works He performed spread out through all the world.

We gather today in a place. This sacred space is a place of blessing. It is the place that God has set aside for us to experience His presence, hear His word and be transformed by the Body and Blood of Jesus. Here we have experienced joy as we baptized babies, received converts to the fullness of faith and celebrated weddings. This is also a place that has known grief and sorrow. It is a place from which we have buried our loved ones, cried over broken relationships and brought our worries for our children to the throne of God. It is a place where we celebrated the mysteries of our faith and lifted up to our Heavenly Father the mysteries of our day-to-day lives. Here we have found healing for our sins through the Sacrament of Penance. And we have experienced the love of God through this loving and accepting community of faith. This is a holy place. God is here and has blessed us.

However, like the upper room, all the blessings that rush down upon us here are not meant to stay here. They are not for us to keep to ourselves the way friends keep secrets. What happens here is not meant to stay here. Rather, the way light from a candle spreads out to fill a room with its brilliance, we are meant to spread the love, joy, peace and truth we experience here to the other places of our lives - to our homes, to our schools, to the marketplace, to the office, to the playground - so that these too may become places where the Risen Lord can be found.

There are many other places in our world. Some of them are marked by hatred and anger. Some are charged with greed and selfishness. Others are places of indifference and apathy. Just as God changed the upper room from a place of sorrow and fear to a place of joy and faith, He wants to change every place in our world from one of hatred to one of love, from one of greed to one of concern for the poor, from one of poverty to one of prosperity. He can transform those places because of the Holy Spirit who renews the face of the earth.  It is up to us in faith to bring the light of the Risen Lord to these desolate places so they can catch on fire with the love of God.

How can we do that? How can we bring the Risen Jesus into a hurting world? Just by being ourselves. If we are filled with the Spirit, then the Spirit will use us to say the words that someone needs to hear. Just as every word of Scripture has meaning because of the Spirit, every word we say, every good deed we perform, every gesture of friendship we offer, can have a transforming effect. If we give ourselves over to the Spirit, then nothing will be impossible for us. If we say “yes” to the promptings of God within us, then He will begin to move in our lives in even the humblest of ways. It is up to all of us to put our gifts and talents at the service of the world by first giving them over to God. As Saint Paul assures us in today’s second reading: “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.”

In this place of blessing we encounter Jesus, the conqueror of sin, suffering and death. From this place, we proclaim by our words and deeds that He is risen and that in Him we find healing and salvation. The Spirit of God, now alive and active in each one of us, spreads out into the world from this place like a river bringing refreshment and new life to those who have lost their way. And we pray that they may also find there way to this sacred space and experience for themselves all the riches to be found in God’s Holy Spirit.

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