Synopsis: Pentecost [A] Homily John 20:19-23) L/17
Pentecost literally means 50th. It is a feast celebrated on the 50th day after the Passover feast by the Jews and a feast celebrated on the 50th day after the feast of the Resurrection of Jesus by the Christians. The Jewish Pentecost was originally a post-harvest thanksgiving feast. Later, the Jews included in it the remembrance of God’s Covenants with Noah after the Deluge and with Moses at Mt. Sinai
The event: On the day of Pentecost 1) The Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary as fiery tongues. 2) The frightened apostles were transformed into fiery preachers and evangelizers and were given the gift of tongues by a special anointing of the Holy Spirit. 3) The listeners experienced a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit through the apostles’ gift of tongues: they heard Peter speaking in their native languages. 4) The early Christians became powerful witnesses and brave martyrs for their Faith in Jesus.
The role of the Holy Spirit in Christian life: 1) As an indwelling God, He makes us His Living Temples (I Cor 3:16). 2) As a strengthening God, He strengthens us in our fight against temptations and in our mission of bearing witness to Christ by transparent Christian lives. 3) As a sanctifying God, He makes us holy through the Sacraments: a) He makes us children of God and heirs of Heaven through Baptism. b) He makes us temples of God, warriors and defenders of the Faith, through Confirmation. c) He enables us to be reconciled with God by pardoning our sins through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. d) He gives us spiritual nourishment via the Holy Eucharist by converting bread and wine into Jesus’ Body and Blood through Epiclesis. 4) As a teaching and guiding God, He clarifies and constantly reminds us of Christ’s teachings. 5) As a listening and talking God, He listens to our prayers and enables us to pray, and He speaks to us mainly through the Bible. 6) As a Giver of gifts, He gives us His gifts, fruits and charisms.
Life messages: We need to permit the Holy Spirit to take control of our lives: 1) by constantly remembering His holy presence and behaving well; 2) by praying for His daily anointing so that we may fight against our temptations and control our evil tendencies, evil habits and addictions; 3) by asking His daily assistance to pray, listening to God through meditative Bible reading and talking to Him; and 4) by asking the help of the Holy Spirit to do good for others and to be reconciled with God and others every day.
Pentecost (June 4) Acts 2:1-11; I Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13; Jn 20:19-23
1) “Well, Chippie doesn’t sing much anymore.” It happened in Galveston, TX. A woman was cleaning the bottom of the cage of her parrot Chippie with the canister vacuum cleaner. She was not using an attachment on the tube. When the telephone rang, she turned her head to pick it up, continuing to vacuum the cage as she said, “Hello,” into the phone. Then she heard the horrible noise of Chippie being sucked into the vacuum. Immediately she put down the phone, ripped open the vacuum bag, and found Chippie in there, stunned but still alive. Since the bird was covered with dust and dirt, she grabbed it, ran it into the bathroom, turned on the faucet, and held the bird under the water to clean it off. When she finished that, she saw the hair dryer on the bathroom sink. She turned it on and held the bird in front of the blast of hot air to dry him off. A few weeks later, a reporter from the newspaper that originally published the story went out to the house to ask the woman, “How’s Chippie doing now?” She said, “He just sort of sits and stares.” Today’s Gospel tells us that it was what happened to the apostles. They all were traumatized by the arrest and crucifixion of their master and bewildered by his post-Resurrection appearances and his command to prepare for the coming of his Holy Spirit. Many of us can identify with Chippie and the apostles. Life has sucked us up, thrown cold water on us, and blown us away. Somewhere in the trauma, we have lost our song. Hence, we, too, need the daily anointing of the Holy Spirit to keep us singing songs of Christian witnessing through agápe love.
2) The Spirit of God is the melody that energizes the Church: In the last years of his life, the great cellist and conductor Pablo Casals suffered greatly from rheumatoid arthritis and emphysema. At 90, he was badly stooped and his head pitched forward; his breathing was labored. He needed the help of his wife, Marta, to get dressed in the morning. Marta would then help him shuffle into his studio where he would, with great difficulty, arrange himself on the piano bench. Casals would then manage to raise his swollen, clenched fingers above the keyboard. A visitor describes what he saw next one particular morning: “I was not prepared for the miracle that was about to happen. The fingers slowly unlocked and reached toward the keys like the buds of a plant toward the sunlight. His back straightened. He seemed to breathe more freely. Now his fingers settled on the keys. Then came the opening bars of Bach’s Wohltemperierte Klavier [Well-tempered Clavier], played with great sensitivity and control . . . He hummed as he played, then said that Bach ‘spoke to him here’ – and he placed his hand over his heart. “Then he plunged into a Brahms concerto and his fingers, now agile and powerful, raced across the keyboard with dazzling speed. His entire body seemed fused with the music; it was no longer stiff and shrunken but supple and graceful and completely freed of its arthritic coils. “Having finished the piece, he stood up by himself, far straighter and taller than when he had come into the room. He walked to the breakfast table with no trace of a shuffle, ate heartily, talked animatedly, finished the meal, then went for a walk on the beach.” (From Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient: Reflections on Healing and Regeneration by Norman Cousins). Like music that inspires and exhilarates, the Spirit of God is the melody that energizes the Church, uniting our many different voices into the song of the Love of God. God has formed us into a community, or Church, an instrument for bringing his life and love into our world. But what makes our Church more than just a gathering of good people is His “Breath” infusing the Church with the music of His Divinity. Today we celebrate that presence. In Jesus’ breathing upon the assembled disciples on Easter night the new life of the Holy Spirit, the community of the Resurrection — the Church — takes flight. That same Holy Spirit continues to “blow” through today’s Church giving life and direction to our mission and ministry to preach the Gospel to every nation, to immerse all of humanity into the music of God’s love and the symphony of the Resurrection.
4) Treasure within: An old beggar lay on his deathbed. His last words were to his youngest son who had been his constant companion during his begging trips. “Dear son,” he said, “I have nothing to give you except a cotton bag and a dirty bronze bowl which I got in my younger days from the junk yard of a rich lady.” After his father’s death, the boy continued begging, using the bowl his father had given him. One day a gold merchant dropped a coin in the boy’s bowl and he was surprised to hear a familiar clinking sound. “Let me check your bowl,” the merchant said. To his great surprise, he found that the beggar’s bowl was made of pure gold. “My dear young man,” he said, “why do you waste your time begging? You are a rich man. That bowl of yours is worth at least thirty thousand dollars.” We Christians are often like this beggar boy who failed to recognize and appreciate the value of his bowl. We fail to appreciate the infinite worth of the Holy Spirit living within each of us, sharing His gifts and fruits and charisms with us. On this major feast day, we are invited to experience and appreciate the transforming, sanctifying and strengthening presence of the Holy Spirit within us. This is also a day to renew the promises made to God during our Baptism and Confirmation, to profess our Faith, and to practice it.
Introduction: The Jewish Pentecost: Both the Jews and the Christians now celebrate Pentecost. Along with the Feast of the Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles, Pentecost was one of the major feasts of the Jews. During these three great Jewish festivals, every male Jew living within twenty miles of Jerusalem was legally bound to go to Jerusalem to participate in the feast. The word Pentecost is Greek for pentecostes which means “fiftieth.” The feast received this name because it was celebrated fifty days after the Feast of the Passover. Another name for the Jewish Pentecost is Shebuot or “The Feast of Weeks“(the “week” of seven Sabbaths between Passover and Pentecost). It was originally a day of thanksgiving for the completion of the harvest. During Passover, the first omer (a Hebrew measure of about a bushel), of barley was offered to God. At Pentecost, two loaves of bread were offered in gratitude for the harvest. Later, the Jews added to the Feast of Pentecost the element of Yahweh’s Covenant with Noah, which took place fifty days after the great deluge. Still later, they made this feast an occasion to thank God for His Sinaitic Covenant with Moses, which occurred fifty days after the beginning of the Exodus from Egypt.
The Christian Pentecost: Pentecost marks the end and the goal of the Easter season. For Christians, it is a memorial of the day the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles and the Virgin Mary in the form of fiery tongues, an event that took place fifty days after the Resurrection of Jesus. The Paschal mystery — the Passion, the Death, the Resurrection, and the Ascension of Jesus — culminates in the sending of the Holy Spirit by the Father (at the request of His Son), on Jesus’ disciples. The feast also commemorates the official inauguration of the Christian Church by the apostolic preaching of St. Peter, which resulted in the conversion of 3000 Jews to the Christian Faith. Pentecost is, thus, the official birthday of the Church. But years ago, This Rock Magazine reported that there are now 34,000 Protestant denominations which means that, on the average, more than sixty-nine new denominations had sprung up every year since the Reformation began in 1517. So whose birthday is it anyway? You could say, Pentecost is the birthday of the Church Jesus established nearly 2,000 years ago. Today’s Scripture readings remind us that Pentecost is an event of both the past and the present. The main theme of today’s readings is that the gift of the Holy Spirit is something to be shared with others. In other words, the readings remind us that the gift of the Holy Spirit moves its recipients to action and inspires them to share this gift with others.
The first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:1-11), describes in detail the miraculous transformation that took place during the first Pentecost, thus fulfilling Jesus’ promise to his apostles that they would receive “power from on high.” There was first “a noise like a strong driving wind.” Then there were “tongues as of fire” resting on the disciples, and each of them was filled with the Holy Spirit. The first manifestation of their reception of the Holy Spirit came when the apostles began to proclaim the Good News of Jesus, and everyone there (regardless of their many different native languages), was able to understand them “in his own tongue.” The Jews in the crowds came from sixteen different geographical regions. The miracle of tongues on Pentecost thus reverses the confusion of tongues wrought by God at the Tower of Babel, as described in Genesis 11. Later, the Acts of the Apostles describes how the Holy Spirit empowered the early Christians to bear witness to Christ by their sharing love and strong Faith. This “anointing by the Holy Spirit” also strengthened the early Christian martyrs during the period of brutal persecution that followed.
In the second reading (I Cor 12:3-7, 12-13), St. Paul explains how the sharing of the various spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit enriches the Church. He refers to the varieties of gifts given to the Church as coming from the same Spirit Who activates all of them in Christians for the common good. They are described as the gifts, fruits and charisms of the Spirit. They may take different forms like prophecy, teaching, administration, acts of charity, healing and speaking in tongues, and they may reside in different persons like apostles, prophets, teachers, healers and so on. Paul lists the fruits of the Spirit in his Letter to the Galatians “What the Spirit brings is … love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (5:22). He continues, “Since the Spirit is our life, let us be directed by the Spirit” (5:25). Paul insists that these spiritual gifts are to be used in the present time for the benefit of others, for the common good and for the building up of the Body of Christ.
Today’s Gospel relates how the Risen Jesus gave his apostles a foretaste of Pentecost on the evening of Easter Sunday by appearing to them and sending them to carry on the mission given him by his Heavenly Father. He then empowered them to do so by breathing upon them and saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” On the day of Pentecost, Jesus fulfilled his promise to send the Advocate or Paraclete. The gift of the Spirit would also enable them to fulfill Jesus’ commission to preach the Gospel to all nations. Today’s Gospel passage also tells us how Jesus gave to the Apostles the power and authority to forgive sins. “Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.” These wonderful words, which bind together inseparably the presence of the Holy Spirit and the gift of forgiveness, are referred to directly in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. But they have a much wider meaning. Those words remind us of the Christian vocation we are all have, to love and forgive as we have been loved and forgiven, in the world of today, which is often fiercely judgmental and vengeful.
Exegetical notes: Role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer and of the Church: How beautiful is the thought that the Holy Spirit lives within us! Saint Paul reminds the Corinthian community of this fact when he asks, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (I Corinthians 3:16). It is the Holy Spirit who develops our intimacy with God. “God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts crying, ‘Abba!‘ (‘Father!’)” (Gal 4:6). “God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (I Corinthians 12:3). Moreover, we know that it is the Holy Spirit Who teaches us to pray (Romans 8:26). By the power of the Spirit, we also know the Lord Jesus through his Church. Pentecost Sunday is the birthday of the Church. It is the Holy Spirit who enlivens, enlightens, guides, and sanctifies the Church. The Psalm refrain for this Sunday says it so well: “Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.” We know Jesus through the Sacramental Mysteries of the Church, and Holy Spirit is at the heart of the Sacramental life of the Church. Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders are the Sacramental Mysteries through which people receive the seal of the Holy Spirit. It would be impossible for us to receive Jesus in the Eucharist without the descent of the Holy Spirit at the Epiclesis of the Divine Liturgy. Even the forgiveness of sins comes through the Holy Spirit (John 20:21-23). The Holy Spirit both confirmed the apostles in Holy Orders as priests and empowered them to forgive sins by His power, a work which He continues today in each of our priests.
The action of the Holy Spirit in the daily lives of Christians: The Spirit is that Paraclete (a Greek word that is translated as Counselor, Comforter, Helper, Encourager, or Enabler), Who quietly works in us and through us every day behind the scenes in the basic activities of our lives and the lives of the people around us. He is there in all his fullness wherever people worship and pray in the name of Jesus. When we believe and trust in Jesus we have that Faith through the Holy Spirit’s work in us and the Holy Spirit’s filling us. The Holy Spirit leads us to turn away from our sinfulness and reassures us that we are still loved in spite of our sin and that Jesus died on a cross just for those moments when we rebel against God’s way. He confronts us and urges us to take a good look at ourselves and where we are heading, to make a U-turn, to leave the old behind and try something new. He’s not afraid to challenge us and stretch us to go and do things for Christ – things we have never done before or ever imagined ourselves doing. He’s the One Who says to us, “Stop being so self-focussed. Stop looking into yourself all the time and being depressed by what you see, or fool yourself into thinking that what you see in yourself is enough to get you through! Look up, look away, look to Jesus and let Him turn your around; let Him take control!” “The feast of Pentecost celebrates the unseen, immeasurable presence of God in our lives and in our Church – the ruah that animates us to do the work of the Gospel of the Risen One, the ruah that makes God’s will our will, the ruah of God living in us and transforming us so that we might bring his life and love to our broken world. God “breathes” his Spirit into our souls that we may live in his life and love; God ignites the “fire” of his Spirit within our hearts and minds that we may seek God in all things in order to realize the coming of his reign.” (Connections).
The Holy Spirit, the Helper is quietly at work: in the sincere concern of a friend for our health; in the generosity of those who give us so much help; in the inner strength we discover in times of crisis; in those moments when we admit that we have been wrong; in making a tough choice; in the resilience of people who face one bad thing after another; in times when we have dared to love even though it was hard to do so. The Holy Spirit, the Helper is quietly at work: in our taking on responsibilities that we once thought beyond us; in our refusing to let the greed of society take over our soul; in our giving thanks always, even though times have been hard; in our rising above past failures and putting past hurts behind us; in our finding a central core of peace in the midst of turmoil; in an adult patiently teaching a child self-esteem and self-control; in the person sitting quietly beside a hospital bed; in a parent praying for a troubled son or daughter. The Spirit calls us to repentance, to turn our lives around; He calls us to Faith and to take up our cross and follow Jesus. In every way, we look at the Holy Spirit, He is always our Helper, always helping us to be what God made us to be. He helps us to be truly great, namely, to be servants to one another. Likewise, the Spirit promotes Jesus in our lives; He gathers us around the cross of Jesus; He changes our lives, helping us to be more patient and forgiving, to seek new beginnings in our relationships with one another and to let the power of God’s love have the final say over the conflicts we get into. He is available to us every moment of every day as we face the choices between being self-centred or being the God-centered people the Spirit has called us to be in Christ.
Life messages: 1) We need to permit the Holy Spirit to direct our lives: a) by constantly remembering and appreciating His Holy Presence within us, especially through the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation; b) by fortifying ourselves with the help of the Holy Spirit against all types of temptations; c) by seeking the assistance of the Holy Spirit in our thoughts, words, and deeds, and in the breaking of our evil habits; d) by listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to us through the Bible and through the good counsel of others; e) by fervently praying for the gifts, fruits and charisms of the Holy Spirit; f) by renewing our lives through the anointing of the Holy Spirit; and g) by living our lives in the Holy Spirit as lives of commitment, of sacrifice, and of joy. We are called to love as Jesus loved, not counting the cost. As Saint Paul exhorts us, “Walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16, 25).
2) We need to cultivate the spirit of forgiveness. The feast of the Pentecost offers us the chance to look at the role which forgiveness should play in our dealings with others. Thus, we are challenged to examine our sense of compassion, patience, tolerance and magnanimity. Learning to forgive is a lifelong task, but the Holy Spirit is with us to make us agents of forgiveness. If we are prepared on this day of Pentecost to receive the Holy Spirit into our lives, we can have confidence that our lives will be marked by the Spirit of forgiveness.
3) We need to observe Pentecost every day. “It will always be Pentecost in the Church,” affirmed Blessed Oscar Romero, Archbishop of El Salvador, on Pentecost Sunday 1978, “provided the Church lets the beauty of the Holy Spirit shine forth from her countenance. When the Church ceases to let her strength rest on the Power from above which Christ promised her and which he gave her on that day, and when the Church leans rather on the weak forces of the power or wealth of this earth, then the Church ceases to be newsworthy. The Church will be fair to see, perennially young, attractive in every age, as long as she is faithful to the Spirit that floods her and she reflects that Spirit through her communities, through her pastors, through her very life” (The Violence of Love, The Plough Pub. Co., Farmington, PA: 1998). [Archbishop Oscar Romero was beatified May 23, 2015 by Pope Francis.] Archbishop Romero’s declaration reminds us — as does today’s Gospel — that Pentecost is not just one day, but every day. Without breath, there is no life. Without the Spirit, the Church is a field of dry, dead bones. The Venerable Fulton J. Sheen once said about the Church, “Even though we are God’s chosen people, we often behave more like God’s frozen people–frozen in our prayer life, frozen in the way we relate with one another, frozen in the way we celebrate our Faith.” [Bishop Fulton J. Sheen was declared Venerable by Pope Benedict XVI in June, 2012.] Today is a great day to ask the Holy Spirit to rekindle in us the spirit of new life and enthusiasm, the fire of God’s love. Let us repeat Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman’s favorite little prayer, “Come Holy Spirit:”
“Come Holy Spirit
Make our ears to hear
Make our eyes to see
Make our mouths to speak
Make our hearts to seek
Make our hands to reach out
And touch the world with your love. AMEN.”
[Cardinal Newman was beatified September 19, 2010 by Pope St. John Paul II.]
4) We need to be Spirit-filled Christians: Spirit-filled people acknowledge their weaknesses, ask for the strengthening, anointing and guidance of the Holy Spirit every morning, ask for His forgiveness every evening, and pass on that forgiveness to those who sin against them. Spirit-filled people are praying people. Paul encourages us, “Pray on every occasion as the Spirit leads. For this reason keep alert and never give up; pray for all God’s people” (Eph 6:18). They are praying and worshipping God in their families and parishes. They try to grow continually in their Faith, and they seek out every opportunity to discover Christ and what it means to be children of God. Spirit-filled people are people who allow the Spirit to change their lives through their daily reading of the Bible and their frequenting of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist. Spirit-filled people speak words that heal, restore, make people happy and build people up instead of tearing them down. Spirit-filled people pass on the love of God to the people living around them by their acts of kindness, mercy and charity. Hence, let us aks the Holy Spirit for a spirit of love instead of hate, a spirit of helpfulness instead of non-cooperation, a spirit of generosity instead of greed and a spirit of gentleness in place of our spirit of ruthlessness.
Joke of the week: 1) The seven gifts in day-to-day life:
- a) The gift of wisdom: 1) Four-year-old Amanda was taken to the doctor’s office with a fever. The doctor looked in her ears and asked, “Who’s in there? Donald Duck?” She said, “No.” He looked in her open mouth, “Who’s in there? Mickey Mouse?” Again, she said, “No.” He put his stethoscope on her heart and asked, “Who’s in there? Barney?” Amanda replied, “No, Jesus is in my heart. Barney is in the pocket of my underwear.”
2) There is an old joke about a man who asked his pastor whether it was okay to smoke while he prayed. His pastor said, “Absolutely not! When you pray you should be completely devoted to prayer?” So the man went to another priest, but he changed his question, “Would it be okay to pray while I smoke?” “Yes, of course” was the answer.
- b) The gift of understanding: 1) A kindergarten teacher was observing her the children in her classroom while they drew pictures. She would occasionally walk around to see each child’s artwork. As she came to one little girl who was working diligently, she asked what the drawing was. The girl replied, “I’m drawing God.” The teacher paused and said, “But no one knows what God looks like.” Without missing a beat, or looking up from her drawing the girl replied, “They will in a minute.”
2) “If I sold my house and my car, had a big garage sale and gave all my money to the Church, would that get me into Heaven?” I asked the children in my Sunday School class. “NO!” the children all answered. “If I cleaned the Church every day, mowed the yard, and kept everything neat and tidy, would that get me into Heaven?” Again, the answer was, “NO!” “Well, then, if I were kind to animals and gave candy to all the children, and loved my wife, would that get me into Heaven?” I asked them again. Again, they all answered, “NO!” “Well,” I continued, “then how can I get into Heaven?” A five-year-old boy shouted out, “YOU GOTTA BE DEAD!”
- c) The gift of counsel:Just after receiving his driver’s license, a Lutheran minister’s son wanted to talk about using the family car. “I’ll make a deal with you,” his father said. “Bring your grades up, read your Bible more often, and get a haircut. Then you may use the car once or twice a week.” A month later the question came up again. “Son,” the father said, “I’m proud of you. I see you studying hard and reading your Bible every day. But you didn’t get a haircut.” After a moment’s pause, the son replied, “Yeah, I’ve thought about that. But Samson had long hair, Moses had long hair, and even Jesus had long hair.” “True,” the father replied, “but maybe you noticed that they walked wherever they went.”
- d) The gift of fortitude: A mother refused to permit her little boy to go for a picnic with his classmates. On the day of the picnic, however, she changed her mind and gave him permission. But he sighed and confessed, “It’s too late Mummy, I’ve already prayed for rain on the school picnic day!”
- e) The gift of knowledge: 1) The story is told of a man who went to the priest and said, “Father, I want you to say a Mass for my dog.” The priest was indignant. “What do you mean, say a Mass for your dog?” “It’s my pet dog,” said the man. “I loved that dog and I’d like you to offer a Mass for him.” “We don’t offer Masses for dogs here,” the priest said. “You might try the denomination down the street. Ask them if they have a service for you.” As the man was leaving, he said to the priest, “I really loved that dog. I was planning to give a five thousand-dollar stipend for the Mass.” And the priest said, “Wait a minute! Why didn’t tell me that your dog was Catholic?!”
2) A little boy wanted $100 badly and prayed for two weeks but nothing happened. Then he decided to write a letter to the Lord requesting the $100. When the postal authorities received the letter addressed to the Lord, USA, they decided to send it to the White House so the President could have a look at it. The President was so impressed, touched, and amused that he instructed his secretary to send the little boy a $5.00 bill, as this would appear to be a lot of money to a little boy. The little boy was delighted with the $5.00, and sat down to write a thank-you note to the Lord. He wrote: “Dear Lord, Thank you very much for sending me the money. However, I noticed that for some reason you had to send it through Washington, DC and those jerks deducted 95%.”
3) The Two Ushers: Six-year-old Angie and her four-year-old brother Joel were sitting together in Church. Joel giggled, sang, and talked out loud. Finally, his big sister had had enough. “You’re not supposed to talk out loud in church” “Why? Who’s going to stop me?” Joel asked. Angie pointed to the back of the church and said, ”See those two men standing by the door? They’re ‘hushers.’”
- f) The gift of piety: The Rabbi, the Cantor and one member of the congregation were the only ones present for the service. The Rabbi intoned, “Adonai, before you I am as nothing.” The Cantor intoned, “Adonai, before you I am less than nothing.” The member of the congregation intoned, “Adonai, I too am nothing and less than nothing.” The Cantor looked at the rabbi, and gestured toward the member of the congregation. “Look who thinks he’s nothing!”
- g) The gift of fear of the Lord: Do not ride in automobiles: they are responsible for 20% of fatal accidents. Do not stay home: 1% of all accidents occur in home. Do not walk on the streets or sidewalks: 14% of all accidents occur at such times. Do not travel by air, rail, or water: 16% of all accidents happen on planes, trains or boats. Only .001% of all deaths occur in worship services in Church, and these are usually related to previous physical disorders. Hence, the safest place for you to be at any time is at Church!!!
27 Additional anecdotes for Pentecost Sunday
1) Paderewski immortalizing a boy’s music: Once, a mother took her five-year-old son with her to a concert by Ignace Paderewski, the great Polish pianist. The mother and her son got their seats close to the stage. Then the mother met her old friend and got involved talking with her. She failed to notice that her son had slipped away to do some exploring. At the right time the lights dimmed and the spot light came on. Only then did the mother see her five-year-old son on the stage, sitting on the piano bench, innocently picking out “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little star.” Before she could retrieve her son, Paderewski walked on to the stage. Walking over to the piano, he whispered to the boy, “Don’t stop, keep playing.” Then, leaning over the boy, Paderewski reached out his left hand and began to fill in the bass. Later, he reached around the other side of the boy and added a running obbligato. Together, the great maestro and the tiny five-year-old mesmerized the audience with their playing. The image of the great maestro and the tiny five-year-old at the piano makes a fitting image of the Holy Spirit coming upon the disciples. On the first Pentecost the Holy Spirit whispered encouragement to the disciples. The Holy Spirit transformed the feeble efforts of the disciples into something powerful. (John Pichappilly in The Table of the Word; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
2) “Lower your bucket– taste and see”: More than a century ago, a great sailing ship was stranded off the coast of South America. Week after week the ship lay there in the still waters with not a hint of a breeze. The captain was desperate; the crew was dying of thirst. And then, on the far horizon, a steamship appeared, headed directly toward them. As it drew near, the captain called out, “We need water! Give us water!” The steamship replied, “Lower your buckets where you are.” The captain was furious at this cavalier response but called out again, “Please, give us water.” But the steamer gave the same reply, “Lower your buckets where you are!” And with that they sailed away! The captain was beside himself with anger and despair, and he went below. But a little later, when no one was looking, a yeoman lowered a bucket into the sea and then tasted what he brought up: It was perfectly sweet, fresh water! For you see, the ship was just out of sight of the mouth of the Amazon. And for all those weeks they had been sitting right on top of all the fresh water they needed! What we are really seeking is already inside us, waiting to be discovered, waiting to be embraced: the Holy Spirit of God Who has been living within us from the moment of our Baptism. The Holy Spirit is saying to us at this very moment from deep in our heart, “Lower your buckets where you are. Taste and see!” Come, Holy Spirit! Fill our hearts, and set us on fire! Amen.
3) Why are the Swiss watches gone? If in 1968 someone had asked which country would dominate watch making in the 1990s, most people would have said Switzerland. This is because Switzerland had dominated the world of watch- making for the previous sixty years. They led the search for new ways to manufacture better and more durable watch parts. They developed the best waterproofing techniques. In fact, in 1968 the Swiss made 65% of all watches sold in the world, and laid claim to 90% of the profits. However, by 1980 in Switzerland, watchmakers had been laid off by the thousands and the Swiss controlled a paltry 10% of the watch market. Why? The Swiss had ignored an important new development, the Quartz Movement. Ironically a Swiss invented the Quartz movement, but it was rejected because it had no mainspring or knob. It was too much of a paradigm shift for them to embrace. It was too new and too strange. Today’s text from Acts tells of a powerful paradigm shift in the people of God demanded by “God’s deeds of power,” the miraculous activities that accompanied the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles.
4) Speaking the same language: In 1887, Dr. Ludwig Zamenhof, a Polish linguist, constructed a new language that could be shared by people throughout the world. The artificial language Dr. Zamenhof created is called Esperanto, “the language of hope.” The name signifies hope for humankind that a common language might heal the divisions that exist among the different peoples of the earth. The feast of Pentecost is the Church’s celebration of her unity and universality in the Holy Spirit, and so some of the readings used express this in terms of language. Dr. Zamenhof’s invention of a universal language like Esperanto has been followed by the establishment of the United Nations Assembly, by Summit meetings of the heads of nations, by cultural exchanges and by the revival of the Olympic Games. But Pentecost is more than a work of human creation, more than a work of art and music. Pentecost is a new outpouring of God’s Spirit into our hearts to kindle in us the fire of his love (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds).
5) All Mr. Yates needed was suddenly provided. During the Great Depression, a man by the name of Yates owned a sheep ranch in West Texas. Day by day he grazed his sheep and wondered how he was going to pay his bills. It was in the middle of the Depression, and even government subsidies would not give him enough income to break even. Then one day an oil company came to town. They asked permission to drill a wildcat well on Mr. Yates’ land. At 1,115 feet, they struck oil to the tune of 80,000 barrels a day. All Mr. Yates needed was suddenly provided. When I read that old story, one that Bill Bright tells, I wondered if it might be a parable of our spiritual life. “All I have needed God’s hands have provided,” says the hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness. That is a parable of our spiritual life. The power we need to become what God intended us to be is already in our souls in the form of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
6) “Oh, it sleeps about eighty.” A family driving a large camper pulled up in front of the Church just as the pastor started toward home. Desiring to be friendly, the pastor introduced himself and expressed his admiration for the camper. The man of the family told him rather proudly: “This camper sleeps eight people.” Then he asked: “What is the capacity of your Church, Pastor?” The beleaguered pastor replied rather glumly, “Oh, it sleeps about eighty.” It is embarrassing sometimes how little the modern-day Churches resemble the Church that first Pentecost: the sound of a wind-storm, tongues of fire, disciples speaking in different languages, thousands being added to the Church and lots of excitement – excitement everywhere!
7) “I’m gonna run her through that thing one time.” Two brothers grew up on a farm in a rural area near Cairo, Georgia. One brother took to education like a duck to water. He graduated from Georgia Tech and became a renowned engineer in Chicago. The other brother was content to stay home and farm. Some years later, the learned brother was invited to give a speech in Atlanta at the Peachtree Plaza Hotel. He had not seen his brother in a long while so he invited him to bring his family to the hotel and spend a little time with him. The rural brother had never been in a town bigger than Cairo. He and his wife and son piled into their pickup truck and headed for Atlanta. After a fearful experience on the interstate highways, they pulled up in front of the Peachtree Plaza. The farmer left his wife in the truck. He and his son went inside to check in. Just inside the entrance were a number of elevators. The farmer had never seen one before. He watched a large, very plain, middle-aged lady step inside one of those little rooms. The doors closed. After about a minute, the doors opened and out stepped a young lady who was a vision of loveliness. The farmer’s eyes bugged out. Quickly he punched his son and said, “Boy, go get your Maw. I’m gonna run her through that thing one time.” At Pentecost, a ragged aggregation of misfits was transformed into a disciplined cadre of spiritual storm troopers. The wimps became warriors!
8) Wilma Rudolph winning Olympics gold medals: Neil T. Anderson, in his book Victory over Darkness, tells a thrilling story about a little girl born with major health problems which left her crippled. She had a large, wonderful Christian family. Her mother used to tell her. “If you believe, God will make it happen. You will be able to run around like your brothers and sisters.” She took her mother’s counsel to heart and began to believe that God could heal her. She practiced walking without her braces with the aid of her brothers and sisters. On her twelfth birthday, she surprised her parents and her doctors by removing her braces and walking around the doctor’s office unassisted. She never wore the braces again. Her next goal was to play basketball. The coach only agreed to let her play as a means of getting her older sister on the team. One day she approached the coach and promised him if he would give her an extra 10 minutes of coaching each day, she would give him a world-class athlete. He laughed, but seeing she was serious, half-heartedly agreed. Before long her determination paid off. She was one of the team’s best players. Her team went to the state basketball championships. One of the referees noticed her exceptional ability. He asked if she had ever run track. She hadn’t. He encouraged her to try it. So after the basketball season she went out for track. She began winning races and earned a berth in the state championships. At the age of 16, she was one of the best young runners in the country. She went to the Olympics in Australia and won a bronze medal for anchoring the 400meter relay team. Four years later in Rome she won the 100-meter dash, the 200meter dash and anchored the winning 400-meter relay team “all in world-record times.” Wilma Rudolph capped the year by receiving the prestigious Sullivan Award as the most outstanding amateur athlete in America. Her faith and hard work had paid off. [Neil T. Anderson, Victory over Darkness (Ventura, California: Regal Books, 1990), pp. 107-108.] In a sense, that is what Pentecost is about. People opened themselves to the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit empowered them to do things they never dreamed possible. Pentecost is about empowerment: “a small group of folks turned the world upside down.”
9) In yachting, no wind means no race! “Rev. Alan Walker of Australia often tells about the race of the sailing yachts in which Australia finally defeated the USA for the prized America’s Cup. For 132 years, the cup was kept and defended by the United States. Again, and again there were challenges for the cup, but each time it was retained by the USA. Finally, in 1983 Australia mounted a serious challenge. The event took place as scheduled, and after six races, the two yachts were deadlocked at three wins each. Now the whole world seemed to take notice. Australia was alive with anticipation. The sporting world was focused on the race. The day came for the final race. After more than 100 years, the United States was in danger of losing its very precious cup. Thousands of people came to watch the race. Television cameras were ready to beam the race by satellite around the world. The crews were ready. The boats were polished. The yachts pulled into place at the starting line. All was ready, but there was no race! There was not enough wind. In yachting, no wind means no race!” In the life of the Church, as in yachting, no wind, no race. Who would deny that the Church today lacks power, life, energy, excitement? The Church today needs the power of the Holy Spirit.
10) Torch and Bucket: There is the story of a person who saw an angel walking down the street. The angel was carrying a torch in one hand and a bucket of water in the other. “What are you going to do with that torch and that bucket of water?” the person asked. The angel stopped abruptly, looked at the person and said, “With the torch, I’m going to burn down the mansions of Heaven, and with the bucket of water, I’m going to put out the fires of hell. Then we’re going to see who really loves God. The angel’s point is that many people obey God’s Commandments out of fear of punishment of Hell or hope of reward in Heaven. They don’t obey him for the reason Jesus gives in today’s Gospel. They don’t obey them out of love: “If you love me,” Jesus says in today’s reading, “you will obey my commandments.” (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies).
11) Do you belong to a Pentecostal church? During the Italian occupation of Ethiopia in the days of Mussolini, Christian believers suffered considerable persecution. In his book, Fire on the Mountains, Raymond Davis tells of the love demonstrated by believers for each other during this period of affliction, which in turn made a major impression on unbelievers. For example, no provision was made to feed the prisoners in jail by the invading army. This was the responsibility of relatives and friends. Christians in the prisons had no problem, though. They were well cared for by friends and family. In fact, so much food was brought them by fellow believers and Church groups that enough remained to feed the unbelieving prisoners also. This observable love, vibrant though nonverbal, brought many to seek the Lord. Such love was previously unheard of. As a result the word spread far and wide. Non-believers sought out believers to learn more about the Christian faith. When prisoners who had come to know Christ while in jail were released, they went back home and attended the nearest church. [Leslie B. Flynn, You Don’t Have To Go It Alone, (Denver, Colorado: Accent Books, 1981).] It is only right, then, that we should pray that we might be a “Pentecostal Church,” if we understand what that means.
12) “I need to know if you are Pentecostal.” The well-known author and preacher, Fred Craddock, tells a rather funny story about a lecture he was giving: A few years ago, when he was on the West Coast speaking at a seminary, just before the first lecture, one of the students stood up and said, “Before you speak, I need to know if you are Pentecostal.” The room grew silent. Craddock said he looked around for the Dean of the Seminary! He was nowhere to be found. The student continued with his quiz right in front of everybody. Craddock was taken aback, and so he said, “Do you mean do I belong to the Pentecostal Church?” He said, “No, I mean are you Pentecostal?” Craddock said, “Are you asking me if I am charismatic?” the student said, “I am asking you if you are Pentecostal.” Craddock said, “Do you want to know if I speak in tongues?” He said, “I want to know if you are Pentecostal.” Craddock said, “I don’t know what your question is.” The student said, “Obviously, you are not Pentecostal.” He left. What are we talking about this morning? Is the Church supposed to use the word Pentecost only as a noun or can it be used as an adjective? And so I ask you: Are you Pentecostal? If the Church is alive in the world, it is Pentecostal. The Church is alive if we are in one accord, sharing our blessings with the less fortunate ones, if we are joined together in prayer and if we are repenting people asking forgiveness from God and others every day.
13) “It was the Holy Spirit.” Fr. Bob Spitzer, a Jesuit priest who was the president of Gonzaga University for 12 years tells about a powerful prayer to the Holy Spirit. It involves asking for the healing of hurts and memories, not just for own self, but for those one has harmed, always seeking forgiveness. He tells the story of making an offhand comment that afterwards he regretted. Unable to call the man, he went to the chapel and asked the Holy Spirit to heal any harm he had done. A few days later, something extraordinary happened. Fr. Spitzer ran into the man walking on the campus, and the man said, “You know Father, I’ve been thinking about what you told me. At first I was kind of angry, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized what you were getting at. You actually helped me a great deal.” As Fr. Spitzer remarked later: “It was the Holy Spirit.” (http://www.magisreasonfaith.org/files/pdfs/spitzerbio.pdf).
14) The Holy Spirit is a Spirit of communication: There have been numerous books written on the difficulty that men and women have in communicating. It has been estimated that women say something like 6,000 – 8,000 words a day and that men utter 2,000 – 4,000 words a day. At the end of the day the man has spoken his 4,000 words and doesn’t want to communicate any more. He simply wants to sit quietly, watch TV and go to bed. A woman most likely won’t have spoken her 8,000 words for the day yet. She may have 2-3,000 words to go and uses them to share every event of the day. This conversation may sound familiar. Wife: Hi darling …it’s good to see you home. How was your day? Husband: Good. Wife: I heard that you were going to finalize that big deal today. How did it go? Husband: Fine. Wife: That’s good. Do you think the boss will give you a raise? Husband: Maybe. Wife: Hey! Today I found out that I’m pregnant. Husband: That’s good. and so on… and then she goes on to tell everything that happened in her day. The Holy Spirit communicates with men and women equally through the Holy Bible and inspires them and guides them in their communication with God. May God’s Spirit guide and help us as we go out from here today and give us the courage and power to speak his Word to others. (Rev. Gerhard)-
15) Come, Holy Spirit: There is a period of human history called the Dark Ages. It started in about the fifth century and continued for the next 600 years. You might say it was a 600-year depression – food was scarce, people lived hand-to-mouth – and Western civilisation barely hung by a thread. The one bright spot was the local Cathedral. Building Cathedrals, even in small towns, gave work to thousands of people. These buildings became the cultural, social and spiritual centres of life. Murals, stained glass windows, sculptures and pageantry helped teach the great stories of the Bible at a time when very few people could read. With this in mind, some of the cathedral builders chose to impress on the people the meaning of Pentecost. In the great domed and richly painted ceilings were a number of small carefully disguised doors. During worship on Pentecost when the whole town was gathered in the cathedral, some unlucky parishioners were drafted to climb up on to the roof. At the appropriate moment during the liturgy, they would release a live dove through the one of the small doors. This dove would swoop over the congregation as a living symbol of the presence of the Holy Spirit. At the same time the choir boys would make whooshing noise, the doors in the ceiling would be opened again and this time rose petals would be showered on the congregation, symbolizing tongues of flame falling on the worshippers below. You can imagine the impact that this had on those medieval Christians whose lives were drab and hard. They might not have been able to read about Pentecost from the Bible but nevertheless this visual demonstration must have left a lasting impression. (Rev. Gerhard).
16) Together they finished the race. Derek Redmond ran in a semi-final of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Halfway round the track this British athlete collapsed with a torn hamstring. For some strange reason, he wanted to finish the race, and he struggled to his feet. Derek’s Dad got up out of the stand, and he broke his way through security. His Dad picked up his crying son, and together they finished the race. That man did what the Holy Spirit does for us. It’s when we are spiritually exhausted, when we find ourselves giving into the spirit of slavery again and again, when we can’t pray, when we don’t want to pray, when our Faith is just not strong enough –- when there is no way we can finish the race. That’s when the Spirit picks us up, and drags us to the finish line. (Rev. Gerhard).
17) Some Pentecost traditions: Some parishes have begun the tradition of encouraging people to wear red clothing on Pentecost, since red is the liturgical color of the day. This reflects the old custom of decorating homes and churches with colorful flowers on this day. In Poland, for example, and among the Ukrainians, Pentecost is sometimes called the “Green Holiday,” and in Germany the “Flower Feast.” In some Latin countries, there is the term Pascha Rosatum, Latin words that mean “Feast of Roses.” And in Italy there is the name Pascua Rossa, meaning “Red Pasch,” inspired by the red vestments worn on Pentecost. Medieval Christians liked to dramatize the Pentecost symbols of the dove and flames of fire. Historical accounts tell us, for example, that in France, when the priest intoned the words “Come, Holy Ghost,” trumpets would blow, signifying the violent wind of which the Scriptures speak. In other countries, choirboys would hiss, hum, make odd noises with wind instruments, and rattle their benches. Then from a hole in the wall above, called “The Holy Ghost Hole,” a great swinging disk with a beautiful image of a dove would descend, and remain suspended above the middle of the church. From the same opening in the wall would follow a shower of flowers, representing the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and water symbolizing Baptism. In the thirteenth century, French cathedrals would release white pigeons inside the buildings, and drop roses from the Holy Ghost Hole. Some towns in central Europe even dropped pieces of burning straw, representing the flaming tongues of Pentecost. This last custom eventually found disfavor, as more and more churches and worshipers caught fire, spiritually and literally. (Fr. Hoisington).
18) “Did you and Grandma ever get into any fights?” A little girl asked her grandfather, “Did you and Grandma ever get into any fights?” The grandfather replied: “We don’t talk about it very often, but there was a time when we were not getting along very well. We seemed to be picking on each other a lot and finding all kinds of things to argue about and really getting on one another’s nerves. Well, one day I came in from the garden and I heard a voice upstairs. I went to the stairs and heard your grandmother telling God what she could not bring herself to tell me.” “Well, what did you do?” asked the grand-daughter. “I quietly walked up the stairs,” he replied, “and knelt down beside her and told God my side of the story. And from that day to this, we have never had a problem which we couldn’t resolve by talking it over with each other and with God.” Do you think the Holy Spirit was active in that couples’ marriage? There can be no doubt. Conflict will always remain part of every relationship. The fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control – will always remain critical for happy relationships with others.
19) The Holy Spirit clean-up job: The Holy Spirit not only gives life but even brings dead bones to life. In Greek mythology, we read about the demi-god Hercules, son of Zeus and Alcmena. He was noted for his strength and was commanded by the King whom he was serving in expiation of a crime to clean the stables of Augeas, which housed 3000 oxen. The stable had not been cleaned for 30 years and Hercules was told to do the job within a day. This was a herculean job to complete. He could not do it by his own enormous power so he directed the river Alpheus to run through the stable and so completed the task. The apostles themselves did a great job of cleaning and giving life to people by letting the Holy Spirit move into them. (Elias Dias in Divine Stories for Families).
20) Unseen Guest: Rossini was a great composer of music. He composed beautiful pieces of music, and, therefore, the King of France presented him with a watch which he kept in his showcase with great pride. One day he showed it to his friend. His friend was surprised to know the real worth of the royal watch. He touched a button on the watch and a beautiful photograph of Rossini popped up. All stood in awe! Rossini had had the watch for several years and but had never realized the value and the importance of the watch. Many people do not know much about the Holy Spirit and the importance of Him in our lives. (Elias Dias in Divine Stories for Families; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
21) “Life after Delivery?” In a mother’s womb were two babies. One asked the other: “Do you believe in life after delivery?” The other replied, “Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.” “Nonsense” said the first. “There is no life after delivery. What kind of life would that be?” The second said, “I don’t know, but there will be more light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouth. Maybe we will have other senses that we can’t understand now.” The first replied, “That is absurd. Walking is impossible. And eating with our mouths? Ridiculous! The umbilical cord supplies nutrition and everything we need. But the umbilical cord is so short. Life after delivery is to be logically excluded. ”The second insisted, ”Well I think there is something, and maybe it’s different from life here. Maybe we won’t need this physical cord anymore.” The first replied, “Nonsense. And moreover, if there is life, then why has no one ever come back from there? Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery there is nothing but darkness and silence and oblivion. It takes nowhere.” “Well, I don’t know,” said the second, “but certainly we will meet Mother and she will take care of us.” The first replied “Mother? You actually believe in Mother? That’s laughable. If Mother exists then where is She now?” The second said.” She is all around us. We are surrounded by her. We are of Her. It is in Her that we live. Without Her this world would not and could not exist.”
Said the first: “Well I don’t see her, so it is only logical that she doesn’t exit.” To which the second replied, “Sometimes, when you’re in silence and you focus and listen, you can hear Her loving voice, calling down from above.” Today is Pentecost: The Church’s birthday! “Before Pentecost, the disciples were unsure of what they were to do next, and spent most of their time in hiding. After Pentecost and the gift of the Holy Spirit, they understood their mission to spread the Good News of Jesus, and they had the courage to come out of their hiding and speak openly about who Jesus was, and what he had accomplished by his dying and rising. (http://www.staugustinechurch.net/homilies/pentecostSundayhomily.htm)
22) The Shakespearean advocate who saved a life: One of the popular plays of William Shakespeare is “The Merchant of Venice.” Antonio, a successful merchant of Venice got into trouble because of his generosity. His friend Bassano requested him to lend him some money. Antonio agreed, but, as all of his assets were tied up at sea they went to Shylock, a Jewish moneylender. Shylock agreed to lend them 3000 ducats, but only if Antonio would sign a bond offering a pound of his flesh if the loan was not repaid in three months’ time. Antonio assented to the arrangement. Unfortunately, Antonio was not able to keep his word. The case reached the court. Shylock refused Bassanio’s offer of 6,000 ducats, twice the amount of the loan. He demanded his pound of flesh from Antonio. Everyone present at the scene pleaded for the life of Antonio. But Shylock was adamant that he wanted the will to be carried out. Thus, the court must allow Shylock to extract the pound of flesh. At that very moment, a young lawyer arrived offering to defend the case of Antonio. The young lawyer argued that the bond allowed Shylock to remove only the flesh, not any drop of “blood”, of Antonio. Thus, if Shylock were to shed any drop of Antonio’s blood, his “lands and goods” would be forfeited under Venetian laws. The young lawyer stepped in at a moment when Antonio was in utter hopelessness. He was sure that he would lose his life. But the young lawyer’s arguments and reasoning brought hope to Antonio who began to be reassured. The presence of an Advocate brought great change in Antonio. The disciples of Jesus too were in great hopelessness after the Ascension of Jesus. The message of Resurrection gave them hope and courage. However, it lasted only for forty days. Again, after the Ascension they confined themselves behind closed doors. Then came the great miracle. They found the great Advocate in their midst. The Holy Spirit descended upon them like tongues of fire, rekindled their hopes and ignited their courage. It was t eh Holy Spirit Who transformed the ignorant men into possessors of Divine Wisdom. It transformed the cowards into heroes and desperate men into dreamers. (Fr. Bobby Jose)
23) Carnal versus Spiritual: There was once an Eskimo who used to take his two dogs for a bet-fight in the town square. One was a black dog the other was white. The people gathered week after week to see the dogs fight and betted heavily. On some days, the black dog won and on others the white. No matter which dog won, the Eskimo made money. The secret behind duping the people was that he would feed the dog well which he wanted to win. Do you feed your spiritual self and keep it strengthened by the daily anointing of the Holy Spirit to win over the carnal person? “For I delight in the law of God after the inward man, but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” (Daniel Sunderaj in Manna for the Soul; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
24) Film: ‘Being John Malkovich’: In the very strange 1999 surrealist movie Being John Malkovich, someone discovers a portal into Malkovich’s mind, enabling visitors to see and experience things through his body and to influence his actions. He becomes aware of what’s happening and finds the portal himself. At the climax of the movie, there is a bizarre but powerful scene when he enters the portal, being swept down a dark tunnel with a roaring sound to emerge as a participant/observer in his own world. He discovers that everyone has his face and his voice, and every word spoken is in his name. Connections with the Pentecost story: — the paradox of the Creator entering his own creation by an unexplainable power; the potential of the portal to connect people in an unprecedented kind of indwelling. But the exploitation of the portal by those who find it — selling access, allowing it to be used to violate someone’s integrity — reminds me of all who abuse the gift of the Spirit for their own ends or to manipulate others. Seeing the face of Malkovich everywhere reminds me of the Spirit making Jesus present through us in a new and all-encompassing way. We are recognizably Christ-like, though still ourselves, and all we say and do is ‘in his Name’. It’s a frightening moment in the movie, because Malkovich has no wish to become omnipresent as a Christ-figure, but the image is powerful. (Marnie Barrel -Film insights in The Text this Week; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
25) Holy Roller Service: A little girl was visiting her grandmother in a small country town in the Southern United States. They attended a very emotional religious service, where people expressed their feelings by jumping about and shouting what we might call a “Holy Roller” service. The little girl asked her grandmother if all that jumping meant the Holy Spirit was really there. Her grandmother said. “Honey, it don’t matter how high they jump up, it’s what they do when they come down that will tell you if it’s the real thing.” It would be good if we were a little more enthusiastic about our religion, but what matters is what we do in everyday life. Does the Holy Spirit have a practical effect on our daily life? In what way? (Gerard Fuller in Stories for all Seasons; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
26) High tide of the Holy Spirit: A ship strayed off course near San Diego some years back. It became stuck in a reef at low tide. Twelve tugboats were unsuccessful in their attempts to budge it. Finally, the captain instructed the tugs to go back home. He sighed, “I’ll just be patient and wait.” He waited until high tide. All of a sudden, the ocean began to rise. What human power could not do, the rising tide of the Pacific Ocean did. It lifted that ship and put it back into the channel. Something like that happened to the early Church on the Day of Pentecost. They were all together in one place – confused, unmotivated and fearful – when suddenly the tide of Holy Spirit rolled in.
27) Niccolo Paganini on one string: The renowned Italian violinist, violist, cellist, guitarist and composer, Niccolo Paganini, was due to perform one night in a very prestigious Concert Hall in Paris. Even as he walked on to the stage, the audience stood up and cheered with irrepressible excitement and heart-warming esteem. Resting his violin under his chin, the celebrated musician began to play with such dexterity and brilliance that the audience listened with spellbound silence. Suddenly one string of the violin snapped. But the consummate professional was not deterred. On the contrary, he continued to play with three strings, and the music was just as fascinating and impressive. Moments later a second string snapped; and minutes later the third. The audience gasped in stunned disbelief. What was Paganini going to do? Would he bow and leave regretfully? Without losing his cool, the famous maestro raised his hand, called for silence and announced: “Ladies and gentlemen, you are about to hear Paganini on one string.” What followed thereafter literally took everyone’s breath away – the performance was flawless, the music exquisite, the entertainment heavenly and just on one string! Such is the incomparable touch of the Master’s hand. This extraordinary story aptly describes the singular and marvelous role of the Spirit in our personal lives. (J. Valladares in Your Words, O Lord, Are Spirit, and They are Life; quoted by Fr. Botelho).L/17