Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap
Today is the Solemnity of Pentecost! It is the day when the Holy Spirit descended upon a frightening Church who, in John’s gospel, is aptly described as one who is sheltering herself with “doors being shut … for fear of the Jews” (John 20:19).
The Lukan account, as found in the Book of Acts, gives a different picture of the expectant Church. It shows that up till thetime of Pentecost the Church was busy in ordering her hierarchical structure in view of the universal ministry Jesus entrustedto her before he ascended into heaven. In fact the Book of Acts tells us that after “the brethren (the company of persons was in all about a hundred and twenty)” (Acts 1:15) “prayed” (verse 24) and “cast lots for them” (Matthi’as and Joseph called Barsab’bas, who was surnamed Justus) (verse 26) Matthi’as was chosen to take the place of Judas and “was enrolled with theeleven apostles” (verse 26).
After his recruitment God opened another decisive chapter for his Church, the chapter of Pentecost! The Book of Acts says: “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place” (Acts 2:1). Unity in prayer has paved the way for the Church to recieve the Spirit of Unity, the Holy Spirit! As Pope Benedict XVI explains it, Pentecost shows how “under the signs of a strong wind and fire, the Holy Spirit sweeps into the community of the disciples of Jesus who are in prayer, thus bringing the Church into being”. As Pope Francis said to Padre Pio Prayer Groups from around the world and the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza (House for the Relief of Suffering) staff members earlier this year, “God’s heart is not armored with all sorts of security measures. You can open it with a common key – prayer”.
And look Who prayer brought on the Church? God’s Spirit in person! In the Gospel of Luke Jesus’ promise rings so clear cut! “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11-13).
This is what the Church did in the preparatory days before Pentecost: asking “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (2 Cor 1:3) tosend on her his consoling Spirit. That Spirit by whose power the disciples of Jesus would be his “witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Sama’ria and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Thanks to the Spirit who filled and led Jesus (see Luke 4:1) to face the devil’s temptations and work God’s mighty works it was likewise the same Spirit who was to fortify the Church to carry out Jesus’ mission of “preach[ing] good news to the poor, proclaim[ing] release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, … set[ting] at liberty those who are oppressed, … proclaim[ing] the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19).
The Jubilee Year of Mercy we are living in as Church is “the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:19) wherein we, as the One Body of Christ, are profoundly “sens[ing] a responsibility to be a living sign of the Father’s love in the world” (Misericordiae Vultus no: 4). A love which is mercy itself! A love which comes directly to us from the “the tender mercy of our God” (Luke 1:78)! That God, who, the Second Letter to theCorinthians not only characterizes him as “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction” but also presents Him as the One who strengthens you and me to “be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by [Him] (God)” (2 Cor 1:3-4).
O Lord, Fount of all Mercy, make me merciful by sending down on me your Spirit, the Fount of your Mercy, so that I may become a living image of Jesus Christ, My Merciful Saviour. Amen.