Today’s blog, which celebrates the birth of Christian community, is dedicated to the memory of George Floyd, who was a member of the Church at Resurrection Houston, where he found redemption and meaning for his life, and where he, following the example of the disciples at Pentecost, opened new doors of faith for the people of his neighborhood..
The Church celebrates Pentecost this week, beginning with the Sunday Mass readings about the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples gathered in the upper room after Jesus’ ascension into heaven. The name of the feast is from the ancient Jewish celebration of the giving of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai. Just as that event is the culmination of the Exodus for ancient Israel, so the descent of the Holy Spirit concludes the seven weeks of Eastertide in the foundational story of Christianity.
The Christian Pentecost is a joyful event inaugurating the Church. The disciples are gathered together as the Holy Spirit, breathed upon them by Jesus, surrounds them with sound and wind, and alights overhead as if in tongues of fire, not burning them, but giving them the zeal to share Good News too great to be contained within the confines of the upper room. The Holy Spirit’s “tongues of fire” (Acts 2:3) become the multitudinous “tongues” of the world (Acts 2:11). Saint Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians describes the twofold act of grace by the Holy Spirit as granting Christians the ability to see who Jesus really is through the eyes of faith and forming us, regardless of our background, into a body with individual members having their own gift of service to others (2 Cor. 12: 3-13).
There is a long tradition of artistic representations of Pentecost, the most authentic showing Mary, the mother of Jesus, in the midst of the disciples receiving the tongues of fire. She is there in the upper room (Acts 1:14) at the start of it all. She will soon come to represent the Church itself. Mary, who brought Jesus into the world, became the model of the Church, the new body bringing Christ to the faithful in the sacraments and to the world in word and action.
Saint La Salle, the founder of the Christian Brothers and the patron of Lasallian schools throughout the world, gave his disciples a meditation for this very day, Tuesday following Pentecost Sunday. The feast reminded La Salle of the twofold movement of the Holy Spirit in the lives of his teachers, maintaining them in their vocation as teachers and giving them the grace to make plain to all that their lives are guided by the Spirit of God.
“Although it is a very special effect of God’s goodness to preserve you in his holy grace, this is not sufficient for you in your profession. To live according tp the spirit of your state, you must act under the influence of grace and make it plain that you are guided by the inspiration of the Spirit of God. This, says Saint Paul, is an indication that you are in God’s grace. If you live by the Spirit, he say, then act by the Spirit” (Meditations, “Tuesday following Pentecost Sunday,” part 3, excerpt).
Every ecclesial movement has been a new Pentecost. Does the wind of Holy Spirit still fill the halls of Saint Mary’s College? Are we Lasallians still on fire for bringing education to all as our graced ministry of justice for the world? In our conduct with our students and with each other are we still guided by the Spirit of God?
photo credits: Brother Charles & The National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi