“Peace be with you”. The words spoken by Jesus on the evening of Easter Sunday are recalled in today’s Gospel.
Before we had heard of self-isolating or social-distancing, if you asked most people “how are you?” the reply would often be one word – ‘busy’. My experience was that this appeared to be the case for maybe a couple of years. Many people would be saying things like ‘if only we could stop this hectic lifestyle for a few days.’ In our busy-ness we were searching for a quiet time, the world is a noisy place and quiet is difficult to find. Jesus said to the Apostles “Peace be with you” and they were filled with joy, a joy only the peace of Christ can bring. He gave them His peace twice and then he breathed on the faces of the Apostles just as in the beginning God had breathed life into the face of Adam, formed from the dust of the earth (Gen 2:7)1
St John’s Gospel account of the Apostles receiving the Holy Spirit in such a peace filled way is different from the dramatic account of St Luke found in today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, there is noise which sounded like a strong wind, tongues of fire and immediate changes in the Apostles; they can speak foreign languages and the many visitors in Jerusalem can hear them speak in their own languages. These two events fifty days apart, both have the gift of the Spirit and they both result in changes in the Apostles which helped to establish the Church in the early days following the Resurrection. Why do these experiences appear to be different and why do some people seem to have deeper experiences of the Holy Spirit than others?
The answer is in the second reading today, St Paul tells the Corinthians that ‘No one can say “Jesus is Lord” unless they are under the influence of the Holy Spirit’. He goes on to say that there are a variety of gifts of the Spirit because there are a variety of services or tasks that the Lord needs His body on earth to undertake, no individual is more important than any other, we are all given gifts so that we can serve the Lord; each and every one of us makes up a part of the Body of Christ here on earth and we all need to play our part. This is our inheritance given to us through Baptism
As mentioned earlier there many visitors in Jerusalem at the time of Pentecost, this was one of the three pilgrimage feasts when all Jewish males were required to appear before the Lord in Jerusalem. It was also known as Shavuot or the Feast of Weeks or the Feast of First Fruits and took place fifty days after Passover, it was traditionally a joyous time of giving thanks and presenting offerings of the new grain of the summer wheat or barley harvest in Israel.2
This celebration of First Fruits is reinforced for us as Christians when we recognise the fruits of the Holy Spirit, these are the observable behaviours of people who have allowed the grace of the Holy Spirit to be effective in them. The tradition of the Church lists 12 fruits3 –
So how good are we at allowing the grace of the Holy Spirit to be effective in us? When Jesus said, “Peace be with you”, do you accept that he was speaking to us in 2020 as well as to His disciples on that first Easter Sunday? Jesus offered His peace before He breathed the new life of the Holy Spirit into those present in the Upper room. As we pray for the Holy Spirit to fill us with His gifts so that we can bear fruit, can we find a quiet place to experience the Peace of Christ?
For me, I know that not all of these are present in my life at times. For example, before I sat down to write this I didn’t feel at all peaceful, I was allowing the pressures of time and a computer not working to disturb my peace. However, having realised this, I invited the Holy Spirit to come [“Come Holy Spirit”] and felt much more relaxed as a result. There are also times when I lack self-control with my eating and allow other things to get in the way of exercise, this perpetuates the poor self-image I have of myself. I can be a glass half full person instead of being joyful, I lack patience which leads to frustration. When we live for Jesus and fully embrace His teachings, we can experience the full range of the fruits of the Holy Spirit but only if we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us.
Some of these fruits have been used during the Novena video series I mentioned last week, which is available on YouTube.
This week I would like us all to remember those who have had to postpone or delay Sacraments which we would normally celebrate in our churches. Those who would have been Baptised, those who were preparing for their First Holy Communion, those preparing for reception into the Church, those who should have been Confirmed, those who should have been ordained. We also remember all the families who haven’t been able to have funeral services of loved ones in church with all of the friends and families of their dearly departed loved one present. I pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all of these families, on our Church and on our World at this time, so that we can experience the deep joy felt by the Apostles when they heard Our Lord say those precious words – “Peace be with you”.
Deacon Tony Darroch, 29th May 2020.
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1 Placid Murray, 100 Liturgical Homilies,(The Columba Press, Dublin, 1988)50.
2 Fairchild, Mary. “A Christian Perspective on the Feast of Pentecost.” Learn Religions, Apr. 3, 2020, learnreligions.com/feast-of-pentecost-700186.
3 Fruits of the Holy Spirit, available from https://www.loyolapress.com/catholic-resources/scripture-and-tradition/catholic-basics/catholic-beliefs-and-practices/fruits-of-the-holy-spirit/ accessed 29th May 2020.