By Sister Catherine Cleary, OSB
For many Christians, Christmas and Easter are fairly simple to understand.
We know the Bethlehem story. We love gift giving at Christmas. We work at understanding the crucifixion, burial and raising up of Jesus on Easter Sunday. We “get it.”
But a bird with wings settling on the heads of the Apostles while they hide from the Jews?
Yet, that’s what we are taught on Pentecost. How can we assimilate this unlikely scenario into our faith?
First, let’s recognize we ALL struggle with understanding and faith. (“Lord help my unbelief.” Mark 9:24)
This bird is symbolic of the Holy Spirit, pure gift of God.
The Spirit called the Apostles to a new beginning, where fear gives way to faith, and timidity to bold proclamation.
The bird was a visible sign, as the wind, fire and earthquake were visible signs on Mt. Sinai when God shared the 10 Commandments.
God’s visible signs indicated Presence, Gift and Expectations throughout both the Old and New Testaments. Now, they invited the Apostles to become new people; new creation.
Other signs included the fact that they had gathered on the “first day of the week,” the day of a new creation and that the Risen Lord breathed on them as God first breathed life into creation.
Jesus said, “Peace be with you.” Twice. In Hebrew, peace means more than the absence of conflict. It suggest the fullness of life and blessings. This was God’s intended plan for creation.
Jesus again commanded forgiveness, the cornerstone of peace.
It seems God intended the dawning of a new age, one predicated on peace, and one for which we would be amply prepared, by virtue of the Holy Spirit.
As we celebrate Pentecost, how are you using the gifts of the Spirit: wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord?
What are you doing to practice – and promote – peace?
Who have you forgiven?
How are you bringing about your own new beginning, where fear gives way to faith, and timidity to bold proclamation?