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Sunday Readings for June 12, 2011 (PentecostA)
By Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S.
The evening of that day in Jerusalem didn’t start out too well. It had been a full day for the disciples – really the end of a rather harrowing, disappointing, and frightening week. Everything had fallen apart the night Jesus was arrested. His followers were gathered together but possibly for self-preservation rather than for the faith or the cause. For now this group of men who once had dreams of restoring God’s kingdom are resolved to do nothing more than wait and hide. And so the Sunday evening gathering of this proto-church in Jerusalem begins in silence and fear among a remorseful band of disillusioned souls closed in behind a locked door.
Everything changes when Jesus arrives. His appearance is not expected and there isn’t much warning because it seems that Jesus doesn’t arrive through the front door like he used to. He just arrives and once the group is convinced that this is Jesus in the resurrected flesh they are overjoyed. Jesus’ interaction with his disciples calls our attention how He interacts with us and how we interact with one another through his presence.
In John, the Spirit is not given until Jesus is glorified (7:39). The Spirit's job is to point to Jesus (14:26; 15:26), not to itself. To symbolize the giving of the Holy Spirit/Breath, Jesus "breathes on" the disciples . The same word is used in Gn 2:7 (LXX) where God breathes the breath of life into the nostrils of the man and he becomes a living being. It is used in Ez 37:9 where the breath breathes on the slain [the dry bones], so that they may live. It is also used in Wisdom 15:11c where God "breathed a living spirit into them."
What changed the disciples from fearful (hiding behind locked doors) to fearless witnesses in the world?" One answer is that they had seen the resurrected Jesus -- but only a few had this life-changing experience. Another answer is that they had all been filled with the Holy Spirit.
The giving of the Spirit comes after the disciples (and I take these disciples to represent all disciples -- not just a select few) have been commissioned to continue the work that Jesus has done (v. 21). Although two different words for "send" are used -- apostello and pempo -- they are used interchangeably in John. The purpose of this resurrection appearance is not so much to prove the resurrection, as it is to send the disciples as Jesus had been sent.
Easter is not just coming to a wonderful, inspiring worship service, it is being sent back into the (hostile) world, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to bear witness to the identity of God as revealed in Jesus
Just as Jesus was sent by the Father, so also he sends the community (v. 21), but the content of the church's work is only alluded to. The combination of vv. 22-23 suggests that the faith community is to be a people shaped by Jesus' gift of the Spirit and that the mark of that gift will be the power to forgive or retain sins. If we combine verses 22-23 with Jesus' commandment to love one another in 13:34-35, a possible picture of the church's mission emerges. By loving one another as Jesus loves, the faith community reveals God to the world; by revealing God to the world, the church makes it possible for the world to choose to enter into relationship with this God of limitless love. It is in choosing or rejecting this relationship with God that sins are forgiven or retained.
I remember one image that was used on this Pentecost event is “powered balloons” or blown up by God”
A "dead balloon" -- has no life. It continues to lie wherever you put it. It doesn't move. It has no power. Take a "dead balloon" and do what Jesus did -- blow on/in it. What happens? It's full of air; but it is still dead, going nowhere until that power is released. Under the "spirit's/breath's/wind's" power, the balloon can move. It goes out. However, when the wind power within the balloon is released, you don't know where the balloon is going to go; but you know it's going somewhere. (We don't know where the wind comes from or is going.)
Jesus did not give the disciples the Spirit's power so that they could stay behind locked doors in fear. It is given as a power to move people out into the world -- even if we don't always know exactly where we will end up. What happens to the balloon after it has "spent" its power? It seems dead again. All out of power. It's flat. There's no more "spirit/breath" within it. On one hand we are not like that balloon. Jesus promises that the Spirit will be with us forever. We will never run out of the Spirit's power. The Spirit given to you in baptism remains forever.