Yesterday there were scenes of great joy for the people of El Salvador as Archbishop Romero was beatified. He was their hero in a civil war that cost the lives of 80,000 people and another 12,000 that disappeared. It was truly a Pentecostal moment. Over 250,000 gathered for this great occasion, which for many Salvadorians was a long overdue moment of recognition. On the day before he died the Archbishop appealed to the Government: “The law of God which says thou shalt not kill must come before any human order to kill. It is high time you recovered your conscience.”
The death of Archbishop Romero is but another reminder that we live in difficult times and that the torture and persecution of Christians still continues today on a massive scale. Think of Boko Haram and ISIS. But perhaps more worrying are the internal crises in the Church, namely, the many who no longer want to walk with us, the people who want a prosperity gospel rather than the gospel of the poor Jesus and then, the scandals that have rocked the church today. If ever we need a new Pentecost it is now.
In today’s feast, nevertheless, we can find great hope. Those disciples in the Upper Room were not in great shape. They had just been ordered by the good Lord to preach the gospel to all nations and it didn’t look like there were up for it. Yet the Holy Spirit brought about a total and incredible transformation that no one could have ever expected as they burst forth from the Upper Room and preached a crucified and risen Christ from the rooftops.
What of Pentecost today? Where is the Spirit today? Perhaps we could take a leaf from the Apostles and join them along with Mary in the Upper Room. We may discover that we too share many of the same fears and misgivings that they had. More importantly we may learn from them to pray and trust in God for the way forward. In what follows I have used prayers (in Italics) from Jose Antonio Pagola.
Like the Apostles in that room our faith too is tested and we feel our task to preach the Good News is way beyond our powers so let’s pray with the Apostles: Come, Holy Spirit. Awaken our faith that is weak, small and vacillating. Teach us to live trusting in the unfathomable love of God our Father for all God’s sons and daughters, be they within or outside of your Church. If this faith is extinguished in our hearts, soon it will die in our communities and churches.
The disciples in the Upper Room must surely have been tempted to go back to their old ways and the well-established Law of Moses rather than choose Jesus. Today there are many doctrines and winds of doctrines professing to be the true religion and so we pray: Come, Holy Spirit. Bring it about that Jesus occupy the center of your Church. Let no one or nothing take his place or cover it over. May you not live among us without attracting us to his Gospel and converting us to follow him! May we not escape his Word nor deviate from his command of love. May his memory not be lost in the world!
The Apostles gathered in fear for their lives in the Upper Room, afraid of the powers that be, afraid of their questionings, of being contradicted or jeered at for following a poor Jesus. On Pentecost the Holy Spirit infused them with amazing courage and boldness. In this modern time of anxious questioning we pray: Come, Holy Spirit. Open our ears to hear your calls: the ones that come today from questionings, suffering, conflicts and contradictions of today’s men and women. Make us live open to your power to generate the new faith that this new society needs. May we live in our Church more attentive to what is being born, rather than to what is dying, with a heart sustained by hope and not undermined by nostalgia.
The disciples in the Upper Room were surely confused. To make the shift from the Old Testament to the New was like the shifting of tectonic plates deep in the earth. How could one dare proclaim the truth of Jesus, who, in the eyes of many, was a failed Messiah? How could these weak and uneducated disciples dare proclaim the truth of Jesus. It is like the young David confronting the giant Goliath. And so in our time of weakness and vulnerability we pray: Come, Holy Spirit. Purify the heart of your Church. Place the truth of Jesus before us. Teach us to recognize our sins and limitations. Remind us that we are like all people – fragile, mediocre and sinners. Free us from our arrogance and false security. Make us learn to walk among others with more truth and humility.
Ever since they first journeyed with Jesus, the disciples were slow to understand the meaning of his message and how compassionate and merciful his Father is. We too struggle to see our world with the eyes of Jesus and so we pray: Come, Holy Spirit. Teach us to see life, the world, and above all, people in a new way. May we learn to see with the eyes of Jesus those who suffer, those who mourn, those who fall, and those who live alone and are forgotten! If we change our way of seeing, the heart and face of your Church will change too. Jesus’ disciples will better radiate his nearness, his understanding and solidarity toward those most in need. We will look more like our Teacher and Master.
Like the Apostles who sought for high places we too are prone to put our own needs first, not realising that all egoism and selfishness is detrimental to God’s reign of love, and so we pray: Come, Holy Spirit. Make of us a Church with open doors, compassionate heart and contagious hope. May no one or nothing distract us or turn us away from Jesus’ project: to make a more just and dignified world, one that is more friendly and happy, one that opens up paths to God’s Reign. Amen.
Sunday, 24 May 2015