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Today is episode 77: Pentecost Takeaways
Hi friends. If you went to mass this past weekend, you know that it was Pentecost, that great feast that commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit onto a ragtag group of hiding, frightened, confused followers of Jesus, somehow making them into the underpinning of a Church that would spread the good news far and wide. Jesus hints about Pentecost in the very first chapter of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, and the events themselves are laid out in just the second chapter, so it’s clear that Pentecost is early and foundational in the Christian Church – it is not an overstatement to say that the Church would not exist without Pentecost.
I love Pentecost because it reminds me that it’s not all on me, and that is to say that Church is not a human endeavor, much as it sometimes seems to be, and much as many of the American Church’s public voices would lead us to believe at times. No. It’s not us building something for God but rather God building something through us. What a relief to know that it’s not we humans at the helm.
In today’s episode, I’ll highlight some insights I took away from this past Sunday’s celebration of Pentecost and I’ll tell you truthfully, friend, it came at exactly the right time for me this year. I don’t know about you, but I’ve felt pretty depleted when it comes to my faith life lately. I really needed a good healthy dose of the Holy Spirit and I’ll tell you, He did not disappoint. And that brings me to my first takeaway.
- God meets us where we are, as we are.
If you were born and raised Catholic, you’ve heard that tricky first reading from the Acts of the Apostles that describes Pentecost, you know, the one where the lector sometimes stumbles over the names of all of those diverse kinds of people who were affected by the Apostles’ brand new gift to speak in a variety of tongues. They said,
“Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.”
Well, it’s no accident that all of these different kinds of people are mentioned by name here and it strikes me that the Holy Spirit did not change the hearer’s ability to take in the Good News in the language of Jesus’s first friends but rather He impacted the Apostles’ ability to speak to people as they were, in their own language, culture, place and time. I do wonder sometimes if we in the American Church have wandered from this model and become more like an echo-chamber, speaking and listening only to like-minded people in a shared language and kind of neglecting our mission which is to go out.
Anyway, as Paul says in the First Letter to the Corinthians.
“Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”
And that leads me to my second takeaway:
2. God is not a fan of walls or doors.
There was no variety of person, friend, no group which Jesus did not intend the Gospel to reach. Though humans come from different places and have a variety of lived experiences, the Good News is for every kind of person. The separations we sometimes make and the walls that we put up – well, this is just not in keeping with the spirit of the early Church.
After the death of Jesus, the Apostles locked themselves into that upper room in fear that what would happen to Jesus just might happen to them. And we do this too, sometimes don’t we friends? We lock ourselves into groups that look and think like us. We fear what the changes in society or in the Church might do to our status quo, the changes scare us, and we become frozen, locked in place. But as Peter says in the Book of Acts, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.” As this Scripture is sometimes translated, “God is no respecter of persons.” There simply is no elevated class of human in the eyes of God.
And though Pentecost is not something we can accomplish on our own, there was an element in the readings this week that struck me about how we position ourselves to receive this gift, and it’s my takeaway number three.
3. The Gathering
Yes, God comes to people individually all the time, and there is scriptural evidence for this – Saul, the Ethiopian Eunuch, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. But it’s the truth of the gathered group in the upper room who experienced Pentecost together that’s kind of sticking with me this week, because God knows that lately, gathering has been kind of a challenge.
Complications from the pandemic, destructive messages from pulpits, division among the faithful. I think it’s fair to say that there’s not one faith community that looks today like it did in 2019. I know mine doesn’t. And gathering just looks different for people nowadays and I’ll count myself in that number. Our routines have definitely shifted around here. So, what do we do with this call to gather when so many communities have been so damaged in these last years? Could we dare hope for a rebirth, a nurturing of a holy ground that could call us to a place where we could receive this kind of communal outpouring from God? I don’t presume to speak for anyone else, but I guess I kind of hope so. Maybe it will look different or be in a different space than it was before but there’s a little something in my spirit that gives me hope for that in the future, because gathering does matter, I think. It helps we humans to orient ourselves toward a big God when we intentionally connect as a faith family to worship and experience Him together, to open ourselves to these gifts of grace that we just can’t give ourselves.
In his Pentecost homily, Pope Francis said,
“We can say that the Holy Spirit is a specialist in bridging distances, he knows how to bridge distances; he teaches us how to overcome them. It is he who connects the teaching of Jesus with every time and every person. With him Christ’s words are not a memory, no: Christ’s words, by virtue of the Holy Spirit, come alive today! The Spirit makes them alive for us: through Scripture he speaks to us and directs us in the present. The Holy Spirit does not fear the passing of the centuries; rather, He makes believers attentive to the problems and events of their time. Indeed, for when the Holy Spirit teaches, he actualizes: he keeps faith ever young. We risk making faith a museum piece: it is a risk! He, on the other hand, brings it up to date, always up to date, the faith up to date: this is his job. For the Holy Spirit does not bind himself to passing epochs or fashions, but brings into today the relevance of Jesus, risen and living.”
Well friend, I’d like to leave you today with two images. The first is a forest in Utah that was actually discovered to have come from one single seed, and which shares one very large root system. Called ‘Pando’ which is Latin for ‘I spread’, it’s believed to be the largest and most dense organism on the planet. Pando weighs nearly 13 million pounds, it’s spread out over 106 acres and it contains 40,000 original trees. Pando likely began growing at the end of the last ice age, but in 2018 began to show signs of decline, a lack of regeneration along with disease and wildlife eating the new growth.
The second image is a beautiful tradition that takes place each Pentecost at the Pantheon in Rome. Believed to have begun as early as 609 A.D., a shower of rose petals descends on the faithful during the chanting of the sequence of Veni Sancte Spiritus to symbolize the descent of the Holy Spirit. It’s lovely and I’ll link video to it along with lots more resources for you in today’s show notes.
As I consider Pentecost, I am mindful of the connection that we each bear to each other – as the second reading on Sunday stated, we are not separate from each other, but truly are many parts of one Body and just as with Pando, the suffering of one part is a danger to us all, but this central truth that God can and does descend upon us – this muck and mess we’ve made with His Church and that He routinely makes all things new and beautiful as those rose petals falling in the pantheon in Rome, well, I guess this just reminds me to hope, to look up, and to be open for how God is still moving today, so I guess I’d say for you and for me and for our Church too, come Holy Spirit. Faith is not designed to be a comfort we keep, it is a tool we use, so let’s receive it and then let’s let God work through us to bring it to a waiting world. Oh friend, what do you say?
Thank you for listening today, friends. If you need me, you can find me on Instagram @kerrycampbellwrites or on my blog at mylittleepiphanies.com. Thanks for sharing, rating, reviewing, and subscribing to this podcast as all of that helps more people to find us and I truly appreciate that, so thanks. If you’d like to support Raised Catholic financially by throwing a few bucks my way, there’s a way for you to do that in the show notes, along with lots of resources about how to engage with this topic more deeply for yourself, so do check all of that out. For now, let’s pray together.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, amen.
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the Earth. O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit, we may be truly wise and ever enjoy his consolation, through Christ our Lord, amen.
Thanks so much for listening today, friend, and I’ll see you next time.
This week we’re considering some of my favorite takeaways from Pentecost 2022, which this year came right on time. Come, Holy Spirit.
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Here are some resources I hope will help you to engage with this week’s topic in a deeper way for yourself:
1. Pentecost 2022 homily transcript from Pope Francis
2. Pentecost at the Pantheon: a Rainfall of Rose Petals – article and video from Italy Magazine
3. Info on Pando (I Spread) in Utah from the U.S. Forest Service
4. Pentecost mass readings 2022
5. Song: Send Us Your Spirit, by Dan Schutte
6. Song: Come Holy Ghost, by Louis Lambilotte, Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles
7. Bible in a Year with Fr. Mike Schmitz episode 323: Pentecost
8. Pentecost, from the Bible Project
9. Journal Prompts:
How can I open myself to receive a new outpouring of God’s Spirit?
Is it a time for me to consider trying gathering in a faith community? What might that look like for me?
How does God’s Holy Spirit change people?
10. Song: Veni Sancte Spiritus (Come, Holy Spirit), by Taize Session Singers