June 9, 2019
When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit Acts_2:1-11
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” Jn_20:19-23
When I was a kid, my dad had a keen fascination with Time. Maybe it came out of his love for science fiction books. Maybe it was because we lived in that early age of great technological change: from Einstein’ new theories, to nuclear power; from quantum physics to the infant space program. Or maybe it was just because, like all of us, he simply didn’t have enough of that thing we call Time.
But whatever the reason, dad’s greatest wish was for me to invent a time machine. So, he was probably quite disappointed when I decided to study chemistry instead of physics. And I know, that was one sin of mine that he did not “retain,” because in those days, just going to college was a big deal.
It’s funny because after all these years, I now find myself pretty fascinated with that same topic of Time. It’s also funny how the subject of time machines and time travel has coincidentally, become quite the fad in today’s movies, books and TV shows.
So, OK, Deacon Joe, what does any of this have to do with reconciliation, Pentecost or the Holy Spirit? . . . Well, actually, it has everything to do with it. And it all began when I came across the word: anachronism.
An anachronism is a chronological inconsistency over different periods of time. It may have to do with people, events, objects, or even customs.
So, if I were to tell you that when I was a kid I dropped my smartphone in the bathtub, that would be an anachronism, because, of course, the only phones we had back in the 60’s, had large dials, and the only smartness might have come from the voice on the other side of the line, if we were lucky.
And likewise, if we interpret Jesus saying “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them and whose sins you retain are retained,” as specifically referring to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, as we know it today, then that’s an anachronism as well, because, in the time of John’s Gospel, the term, ‘forgiveness of sins’ was considered Baptismal language.
And the statement Jesus made about ‘forgiving or retaining’ would more likely refer to giving or withholding Baptism based on a person’s belief or refusal to believe in the Gospel message that the Apostles were sent out to share.
You see, it all had to do with time. And recognizing that, we have to be very careful when we interpret the events in someone else’s time-period with our own customs and knowledge.
Now, it was through all this stuff about anachronisms, that the Holy Spirit gave me a very interesting revelation. Here, after all these years, my dad and I had that proverbial “time machine” right there in our own hands, all along. And so do you, brothers and sisters! We call it: our Bible and our Church.
You see, there’s the OLD (Testament), where we can go all the way back to the very beginning of time. And then there’s the NEW (Testament), where everything was REcreated by that Pascal Mystery of the Incarnation, Life, Death, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus Christ; all culminating in this glorious descent of the Holy Spirit. And of course, there’s the FUTURE where, in Faith, we believe in our own eternal salvation and our eventual, heavenly dwelling with God, as we were promised by Jesus.
Past, Present and Future . . .
You see, it’s the Perfect Time Machine!
But you really don’t have to – just take my word for it. Let’s look at Pentecost. We tend to understand that Pentecost is simply 50-days after Easter and 10-days after the Ascension of Jesus. It’s the day that we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and Mary.
But actually, that’s just one little snippit in the BIG picture of Time, because Pentecost and the Holy Spirit both existed, long before this event ever happened in the time Jesus. And they continue, and will continue to exist, long after, as well . . .
You see, the Apostles did not invent the name Pentecost for their own special day of wind and fire and Spirit. It was originally a Jewish, wheat harvest, Feast Day that went all the way back to the time of Moses (Lv_23:15-22, Nu_28:26-31, Ex_23:16). Seven weeks or 50-days after the Passover, Pentecost was first called the Feast of Weeks. Then, a little later in time, the Israelites added the celebration of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments on that very same day, Pentecost.
So Pentecost was not only a day of thanksgiving for God’s blessings of food. It was also a day of remembrance of God’s Law and the Jewish responsibility to keep it. And it was no coincidence then, that 50-days after the Jewish Passover, and our Easter, in the time of Jesus, God would again remind the world that neither wind nor fire can harm us, when we accept the Holy Spirit’s dwelling within our hearts.
Yet that very symbolism of wind and fire meant more than just the destructive tornadoes and wildfires that we envision them to be. And there’s another anachronism. The wind and the fire again go all the way back to the time of the Exodus, where God protected the Israelites with a column of wind-blown cloud by day, and a column of fire by night (Ex_13:21,22).
It went all the way back to God’s Creation, where a “mighty wind swept over the waters” to bring order out of chaos and light out of darkness (Gn_1:1-2). And shortly after this, that wind became the very breath of life that was breathed into Adam, who became the first man (Gn_2:7). It extended to Elijah who prayed that God would breathe life back into a dead child (1_Ki_17:17-22). And so it was done. And later, God’s breath of life would reconstitute a whole valley of dry bones into living people, through the Prophet Ezekiel (Ez_37:1-9).
You see, THIS Breath of life, this Sacred Wind IS the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus breathed out upon the Apostles, as He sent them into the world – to Baptize and to build this beautiful community we call Church, on this, its birthday!
IF we were to send our own beloved child off to a distant college, we would make sure that they would have all the tools and the knowledge, they would need to survive and thrive.
And if we were to send a husband or a wife into the battlefield of an army, we would make sure that they would have a token or reminder of our love and our prayers, to give them strength and encouragement in their battles.
And if we were to travel, ourselves, to a distant place, that we’ve never been to before, we would make sure we had our GPS, or at least a map of the area, right there next to us, to keep us from getting lost.
You see, it’s in that same way, that Jesus prepared His disciples and us, to be able to survive and thrive in this world, through the wisdom of His Word.
He then offered us reminders of His love and prayers, through the Sacraments of Unity (Eucharist) and Forgiveness (Reconciliation), in order to give us all the strength we need in our battles against evil. St. Paul reminds us that it is IN our One Lord, that we are: One Body and One Spirit, when we believe.
And finally, in order to keep us from ever getting lost, Jesus sent His Holy Spirit. She is the Spirit of wisdom and courage, the Spirit of justice and understanding. She is the Spirit of respect and unity. And most wonderfully, She IS the Spirit who occupies all space and it is She who fills all time with the Breath of Her love and Her life.
To Her we pray, this day and always:
COME Holy Spirit!
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