My Dear Sisters and Brothers!
It is encouraging to meet people who have such a strong belief in the presence of the Holy Spirit, isn’t it? Why wouldn’t they? Jesus himself made it obvious when he spoke to his disciples at the Last Supper: “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name will teach you everything.” The Lord assured his Apostles that his departure meant the arrival of the Holy Spirit. In a couple of weeks we will remember that sacred day of Pentecost, when the promised Holy Spirit came upon the followers of Jesus as wind and fire. However it wasn’t a firework display but it was like what those two disciples had on the way to Emmaus. Jesus joined Cleopas and the other man and as they were walking Christ was explaining the Scriptures to them. On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit joined the fragile, newly established Church on her journey through centuries and continents to guide, inspire and transform the followers of Christ.
Our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles showed us the Church some years after the first Holy Week events. They were discerning some big issue. When they concluded their discernment they wrote: “It has been decided by the Holy Spirit and by ourselves.” Can you sense in those words their deep conviction that what they decided wasn’t simply their thinking but it was a divine inspiration? They were aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit among them. Why wouldn’t they? Jesus did promise them the Holy Spirit. They saw him raised. They saw his ascend to heaven. They heard the wind and saw the tongues of fire on the Pentecost Day.
In 21st century the Church faces big issues too. We, as followers of Christ, are questioned why we don’t accept same sex relationships, abortion, euthanasia, contraception, divorces. We are challenged on our commitment to Christ as the only Saviour of the world. Those who challenge us on those issues give us a long list of reasons why we should change our approach. However on that list there is one reason missing. Is it the will of God? Does it come from the inspiration of the Holy Spirt?
The contribution of the Catholic Church to the world is not simply to agree with the rest of the world but to bring into the world God’s perception. In another passage of the Acts of the Apostles we find Peter and the Apostles answering the authorities in Jerusalem: “We must obey God rather than people.” Because what we want to offer to the world is a perspective which isn’t limited by the horizon, but goes beyond. This perspective comes from the Death, Resurrection and Glorification of Jesus Christ.
At Mass we are asked to offer each other the sign of peace. Usually we do it by shaking hands. What does it make different to a normal handshake? We say: “Peace be with you.” In this way we say to the person next to us that we want her or him to be at peace. People are at peace when they are reconciled with God, others and themselves. When deep down, they are convinced that their decisions are good because they are inspired by God. Because they come from the discernment guided by the Holy Spirit who accompanies us in the way Jesus accompanied his two disciples on the way to Emmaus. This is also my prayer for your faith community here: May you be at peace. May you always be able to say: “It has been decided by the Holy Spirit and by ourselves.”