Sometimes words seem to lose something in the translation. This is especially true when it comes to religious ideas. In his book Meditations Anthony Bloom tells one such story. “A Japanese man once said to me. ‘I think I understand about the Father and the Son, but I can never discover the significance of ‘the honorable bird.’”
That man is not alone. Most Christians find it hard to grasp the meaning of the Holy Spirit and the meaning of the feast we call Pentecost. Chances are you may have never noticed that there are two versions of the coming of the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures in the same cenacle or upper room.
Many of you know that I don’t like peas, but today I am going to preach about the four P’s of Pentecost.
- We see first of all, the POWER of the Holy Spirit. Power can be used in at least two ways: it can be unleashed or it can be harnessed. For example, the energy of 10 gallons of gasoline can be unleashed in a split second by throwing a match into it. (DON’T EVER DO THAT!) Or the energy can be harnessed through the engine of an automobile to drive someone 300 miles. Explosions are spectacular, but controlled burns have staying power. The Holy Spirit works in both ways as we see in the first reading, the gospel, and in our lives — sometimes spectacularly, other times subtly or less often. But it is the same Holy Spirit.
- The second P of Pentecost is PRESENCE. The presence of the risen Lord made a difference to the apostles and disciples on that first Easter They not longer felt afraid or forsaken. The presence of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost gave the earliest Christians the courage and con-viction to preach the gospel and share their faith. The presence of the Holy Spirit can make a difference in our lives as well.
- Third, there is PEACE. In today’s gospel we hear Jesus greet his followers by saying, “Peace be with you.” At Pentecost, the power and presence of the Holy Spirit brought the earliest Church the peace God alone can give. God wants all believers to have the peace that comes from having God a part of their lives.
- Finally, there is the PURPOSE of Pentecost. The earliest Christians and us were and are given the power, presence and peace of the Holy Spirit for a purpose. What Jesus said on that first Easter he says to every believer of every age: “As the Father has sent me, so I sent you.” And as St. Paul reminds us, we are all gifted in different ways to carry on the mission of Jesus.
Remember and rejoice that the same Holy Spirit who came upon the Church at Pentecost wants bless each of us with power. presence, peace and purpose.