Tuesday, May 26, 2009
May 31, 2009
Pentecost Sunday liturgy revolves around the idea of gift. We are told about an entire house “being filled with a driving wind,” “toungues of fire” “parting and resting on each one,” and each one “being filled with the Holy Spirit.” St. Paul speaks of “different kinds of spiritual gifts,” and some “manifestation of the Spirit given for some benefit.” The alternative second reading says more. It enumerates the “fruits of the Spirit,” namely: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The Gospel, for its part, confronts us with a double gift from the Risen Christ – two gifts that are intimately linked to each other: peace from the Lord, and the Spirit who is to be behind a bigger gift - the power to forgive sins.
Gifts galore, these all are! Gifts to acknowledge, cherish and nurture by a people deemed worthy enough to be gifted by this world’s tremendous lover! This, at least partly, is what Pentecost is all about – a day of giftedness, a day of filled-ness, a time and season “to rejoice at seeing the [Risen] Lord” in our midst once again.
The world could use a little more genuine and honest-to-goodness appreciation for the gifts that it receives on a continual, daily basis. This consumerist world that is now awash in material goods, now so plentiful that most people do not even know how to appreciate them, can tend to be biased in favor of what is quantifiable, palpable, usable – everything that caters to our innate desire to possess and fulfill our longing for the more! Many of us, ever hungry for the greater, the better, the ultimate in everything, may be compared to that little boy, who after opening all the beautifully wrapped gifts given to him on his birthday, could only mutter to the utter disappointment of his parents and relatives: “Is this all I’m getting?”
That boy who stands for most of us could not fully appreciate what he got. Like him, we cannot appreciate what we are getting for one simple reason: we remain and get bogged down only on the level of the gifts received. We fail to transcend the gifts and lose sight of an important truth – the truth of our giftedness. Merely counting gifts can make one satiated, but not satisfied. Merely having gifts can make one feel filled for a while, but never fulfilled. The former has to do with having more; the latter has to do with being more. This comes from the deep realization that one is gifted, enriched, blessed, and loved by history’s greatest lover of all. This means being “filled with grace,” because one is filled, not just with “presents”from the Lord, but with His “presence” in our lives.
But there is still a third level of transcendence that Pentecost reminds us of. We have not only received gifts from above. We are not merely gifted beings who are loved by God with a love of predilection that has no parallel on earth. We are meant also to be “given” like Jesus and the Spirit were. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” After breathing on them, the Risen Lord said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” The Spirit’s gift of truth, his guidance to all the truth given to the Church, is meant to be, in turn, a gift to others, a mission, even as Christ and the Spirit are in a “joint mission” from the Father. As we prayed at the start of this Mass, “let the Spirit you sent…continue to work in the world through the hearts of all who believe.” For we all have received gifts. We are gifted. And we are meant to be given in mission to the world.