Brothers and sisters, we come together on this the feast of Pentecost, and come in a rather unique way, as we have been doing now for approximately 11 weeks as we have been living through the COVID-19 crisis. And as we come to the scripture today, it’s very interesting, because you have two presentations of the gift of the Spirit: you have from Luke his recording of the event of Pentecost, and then you have from John his recording of the sending of the Spirit – the giving of the Spirit – to the disciples on the night of the Resurrection.
And you might ask yourself, why two different versions? Well, I think what it points to is that at the heart of the Church is diversity. And diversity is probably the most challenging aspect of all.
It struck me that that diversity is captured in the responsorial Psalm, “Lord, send out your spirit and renew the face of the earth.” When you think about it, it’s a strange prayer because in a sense you want to say, but what’s being renewed?
We look at the earth and its history. I don’t think any one of us would want to renew any part of it, huh, because it’s often so filled with bloodletting, with struggle. There have been isolated moments, but for the most part the history is not something that you would want to renew. Who would want to renew World War 2, or who would want to renew the Depression, or who would want to renew the Civil War, or the religious wars of the mid-centuries?
So you say, well what is he saying? Lord send your spirit and renew the face of the earth. And yet, what is very evident from the two accounts of the giving of the Spirit is that both accounts talk about that which is new. They talked about in the first, you talk about the newness of going forth with the Gospel – not you have to do it my way, but going forth in a way that reaches out to all, where they are, in their own customs and in their own traditions, in their own languages.
Something new, because up to that point – and perhaps even to today – one of the great flaws of human life is tribalism. You have to be my way; if you’re not my way, you don’t have any place, you don’t belong. And we see that even in the Church, certainly that’s one of the struggles that Pope Francis is continually addressing, recognizing that there is more than one way.
And then if you come to the second version – the version from John – what you have is fear, there hiding in the Upper Room and the Spirit frees them. And it frees them to go out and to do the work of the Spirit, to do the work of the Lord. Reconcile. Reconcile. Reconcile. And in a sense, reconciling is about renewing the face of the earth. For what is it that God wants us to renew? God wants us to renew that which God created: harmony of the Garden, the oneness between the human and God, and between the human and nature.
It’s interesting, but that Laudato Si’ was issued on Pentecost Sunday five years ago, because again it’s that recognition that renewing the earth is not by our design, but it’s by God’s design, in which we are putting ourselves at service, in the service of God.
So as we come to the gift of the Spirit, we come to ask the Spirit, the Spirit of God who so takes over our hearts and minds, that the work of God becomes our work, and that we may go forward, bringing to fulfillment this great phrase: send your Spirit, Lord, and renew the face of the earth.