(Acts 2:1-11; Galatians 5:16-26; John 20:19-23)
Today we celebrate one of the great feasts of the year, and I thought we could look at three questions: Do we want the Holy Spirit to come upon us this Pentecost day? What does it mean to live in the Holy Spirit? What are we going to do differently now that the Holy Spirit is coming upon us?
First, if you look at the story, it’s very dramatic, even scary, because a driving wind with a loud noise comes roaring through the community, like the storms we had this week, and then fire comes upon them, and their lives are completely, totally disrupted. They are sent into town and start speaking out boldly about Jesus and love and peace and resurrection, and denouncing the empire and its violence, and announcing God’s reign of love and peace, and they all get in trouble and eventually they get arrested, jailed and martyred.
Do you want this to happen to you? Of course you do! Deep down, we all want to live in the Holy Spirit of Jesus. We’ve tried all the other spirits, the evil spirits of the world, and they’re no fun. It’s just not worth the aggravation and pain to be angry, grouchy, mean, bitter, resentful, and hateful. Those spirits don’t make us feel good. They only make us fight with one another and become violent and lead us to a world of war and nuclear destruction. None of those evil spirits work. Let’s try the Holy Spirit.
St. Ignatius Loyola says that the key to the spiritual life is to discern the spirits, to see whether we are living in the good spirit or an evil spirit and we do that by noticing how things make us feel. If something makes us angry, bitter, mean, resentful, and violent, if it doesn’t make us feel good, then it’s not of the Holy Spirit, so we try to decide what is from the Holy Spirit and do only those things and try to stay in the Holy Spirit.
That leads to the second question, “What does it mean to live in the Holy Spirit of Jesus?” St. Paul says in his letter to the Galatians that we are living in the Holy Spirit when we have the fruits of the spirit–love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
And the Gospel says that when the risen Jesus first appeared to his friends, he said, “Peace be with you,” and then he said it again and breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” So to live in the Holy Spirit of Jesus means to live and breathe in his spirit of peace, and to breathe out his spirit of peace upon one another, to be at perfect peace with ourselves, to find peace in our hearts, to feel at peace within us, to make peace with God and our spouses, children, parents, neighbors, coworkers, everyone in town and everyone everywhere, to reject anything that is not peaceful, and always be at peace with one another.
Finally, how are we going to live differently now that the Holy Spirit of Jesus is coming upon us again?
If like the disciples, we stay behind locked doors and live in fear of one another, if we want to keep things the way they are, if we do not want to be open to Christ in others; if we don’t care about those in need or try to love one another or love our enemies or proclaim the Gospel; if we prefer to be mean and nasty and impatient and angry and resentful and put each other down; if we want to be violent and support war, then we are not living in the Pentecost. We are a pre-Pentecost people, or worse, we are anti-Pentecost people who call down hellfire upon our enemies, instead of the holy fire from heaven upon one another. That’s why if we want to live in the peace of Pentecost, we have to dismantle all our nuclear weapons, abolish war, and close down Los Alamos, Sandia, Kirkland, Lawrence Livermore Laboratories and the Pentagon, and learn to live in the Spirit of active nonviolence.
The Holy Spirit is trying to change us, just as the Holy Spirit changed those first disciples, and the scriptures invite us to be open to that change, to let the Spirit come upon us and transform us.
So we have to choose to live in the Holy Spirit, choose to live in the peace of the risen Lord with each other, choose to share the gifts of love, kindness, and gentleness with others, choose to become more and more like Jesus now that his Holy Spirit lives within us. So we have to continue to be people of prayer, and our prayer these days is beautiful and dangerous and exciting:
“Come, Holy Spirit, send your driving wind upon us and blow away the cobwebs in our hearts and minds and give us the fresh air of the breath of Jesus.
“Come, Holy Spirit, send your blazing fire upon us so that we may burn with love and kindness toward each other and love every human being everywhere.
“Come, Holy Spirit, send us into town and into the world to share the love of God with one another, to talk about Jesus with each other, to denounce the evil spirits of violence, greed, war and death, and proclaim Jesus’ reign of love, mercy, nonviolence and justice.
“Come, Holy Spirit, disarm our hearts and send us forth as your instruments of disarming love to disarm our violent world.
“Come, Holy Spirit, fill us with the joy of the Lord, that no matter what we’re going through, no matter what our problems are, we may always live in the Spirit of Jesus.”