April 6, 2018 at 1:53 p.m.
WORD OF FAITH

Holy Spirit arrives


By REV. ROGER KARBAN- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

The authors of the New Testament don't agree on a timeline for the Holy Spirit's arrival. Yet they all agree on the importance and necessity of His presence in the community.

As we hear in the first reading this Sunday (Acts 2:1-11), Luke locates the Spirit's arrival during the Jewish feast of Pentecost. John, in the Gospel (John 20:19-23), situates the event on Easter Sunday night.

One of the reasons the "official" Church bought into Luke's chronology revolves around its desire to create a liturgical year. It made more sense to spread out these special moments than to group them in one feast.

Choice of days

It's easy to understand why Luke chooses Pentecost and John, Easter for the Spirit's arrival.

Pentecost commemorates Yahweh's giving the law to the Israelites on Mount Sinai during the Exodus. That event, and the accompanying covenant, formed a band of runaway slaves into the People of Yahweh. They were now the Chosen People, picked by God to carry out His will.

In a parallel way, Luke tells his readers that the Holy Spirit transforms us into Jesus' People. The Spirit supplies the force that helps us perceive what the risen Jesus wants us to do and gives us the power to do it.

John places Jesus' infusion of the Spirit on Easter Sunday night because the Spirit is an essential part of the new life Jesus received on that day, the life He shares with all who are willing to die with Him.

Whether we buy into Luke's theology or John's (or a combination), Paul helps us in the second reading to understand what it means for the Spirit to be in our lives (Romans 8:8-17). According to the Apostle, those who imitate Jesus quickly discover they can no longer think or reason the way they did before they began to believe. They now think about new things and reason in new ways.

"Those who are in the flesh," Paul tells the community at Rome, "cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the Spirit....For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live."

Just as Jesus became a "new creation" through His dying and rising, those who carry on His ministry become new creations when they imitate His dying and rising.

Reclaiming Spirit

Through the centuries, many Christians pushed the Holy Spirit to the outskirts of their faith. Once people began to regard the Galilean carpenter as a founder of a new religion, instead of a proclaimer of God's present kingdom, the Spirit became more and more irrelevant.

Forced by our Scriptures to acknowledge this force in the lives of Jesus' first followers, we created a yearly feast and revolved a formal sacrament (Confirmation) around bestowing this power on young people.

We exchanged Luke's fire, wind and noise metaphors for that of a peaceful, docile dove. We conceived of the Spirit solely as a comforter and refused to acknowledge Him as an instigator. By doing so, we exchanged the most freeing element of our faith experience for institutional security.

Perhaps one step in returning to our early Spirit-filled faith would be to make Paul's statement to the church at Rome a part of our daily spiritual reading: "For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a Spirit of adoption, through whom we cry, 'Abba.'"

(5/24/07)

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