A Homily – The Gospel of John 20:19-23 ©

The Gospel of the Day – 2017.06.04

 

 

The Gospel of John 20:19-23

Gospel Acclamation

Second Reading 1 Corinthians 12:3-7, 12, 13 ©

Psalm 103(104):1-2,24,27-30,35 ©

First Reading Genesis 11:1-9 ©

 

Faith, and Beginnings

 

It is the feast of Pentecost.

 

Christians throughout the world celebrate this day.

 

It is the commemoration of the gift of the Holy Spirit, given by Jesus, Joshua son of Joseph, to the church that was founded in his name.

 

For the Church, this moment marks the beginning of a new era. Jesus has gone, the care for community of believers is now in the hands of his disciples

 

The departure of Jesus, the gift of the Holy Spirit, this is the beginning of the age of prophecy in the early church. It is a time of discernment. It is the Apostolic age.

 

In this time, the Church evolves. It becomes a new creation. It is no longer merely a sect of Judaism. It becomes an international movement, transcending Palestine, it spreads throughout the Roman Empire.

 

The way of Jesus, the new way, is preached in new languages, in new tongues, and told through new stories. In this stories Jesus became something new, a myth, a man of power, godlike, God’s own self, the creator of the universe.

 

Jesus preached the way of love, of service, of caring, of justice, of mercy. The way of Jesus can be lived in silence, it does not require words.

 

The myth of Pentecost, as related here in the Gospel of Saint John, narrates some of the struggles of the early Church. It was written more than one hundred years after the death of Jesus, and decades after the Romans destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem. It was written for the Church, for John’s community, in an era when the differentiation among Christians and Jews had concretized, when the leaders in the new Christian movement were trying to establish their bona fides, as the true heirs of Jesus’ ministry.

 

These new Christians imagined the gift of the Holy Spirit, released in a breath of ritual remembering, they imagined it as something new, new to them, but they were wrong. The Holy Spirit was always with them, has always been with humanity, it was not at this time the reception of something new.

 

As Paul taught, God is the creator of the universe, the eternal God is the first source and center of all things. The infinite God engenders all potentialities, and yet interferes with none of them, having created the universe in freedom. The universe that God created, God created free from coercion. God does not coerce creation. And yet the entirety of what is moves according to God’s eternal purpose, and there is no contradiction in this mystery.

 

The Spirit of God animates all living beings, sustains all of creation, and has sustained it throughout all time. Pentecost is a feast that celebrates the acknowledgement of this reality, not the instantiation of it at this point in time.

 

The mission and ministry passed on through this revelation is the heard in the calling, to love and care for, to serve those in greatest need, to love justice and be merciful in the face of the world’s horrors.

 

As the Psalmist wrote:

 

God’s salvation is close. Have no fear.

 

The glory of God does not come and go according to our deeds and merits. God is always present, in all times and all places.

 

Have no fear. God’s salvation reaches everyone.

 

God, the creator of the Universe, the God of Jesus Christ, is the God of all people. Pentecost reveals this. The Feast of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit, and the ritual of baptism are rites which tie the members of the church to an affirmation of this revelation. They tie us to Jesus, and his mission in symbolic way, binding us to his life, his death, and his ascension.

 

These are ritual of reflection, acknowledging the actuality of our unity prefigured in creation. It celebrates our divine unity as children of God.

 

All of those things which we imagine, which we hold in hearts and minds, that divide us one from another, these are illusions born of fear, a lack of trust (faith) in our neighbors, in ourselves, and in God.

 

Our fears bring us back to, or keep us locked in a place of toil, and division, such as is reflected in the book of Genesis, in the story of Babel.

 

This is the story of the beginning of agrarianism. It details an understanding about how cities came to be built, and became large agricultural centers.

 

This marked the beginning of the caste system, slavery, and all of the hierarchical structures of social sin.

 

Where the agrarian life was established, larger and larger population of people came to be supported. As such, they were able to build larger communities, sustaining greater populations, hoarding more wealth.

 

To protect themselves against others they were able to build walls around their cities, and other monumental structures.

 

The narrative surrounding the construction of the first tower, marks the beginning of state sponsored religion.

 

In Mesopotamia these towers were called ziggurats. A ziggurat served a variety of purposes. They were built as granaries. They functioned as temples. They were under the management of a priestly caste, and from the top of these towers the astronomers watched the movements of the heavens. From that they planned the seasons, the planting and the harvest.

 

The move to agrarianism created divided the social order. The division of labor ensued, a caste system came to be, people were separated into stations; laborers, merchants, priests and royal warriors. As time passed these castes became increasingly more rigid, and movement between them became nearly impossible.

 

We are still burdened by these systems, they are rife with social injustice.

 

Jesus confronted these injustices in his day, he taught his disciples to do the same.

 

 

First Reading Genesis 11:1-9 ©

 

Throughout the earth men spoke the same language, with the same vocabulary. Now as they moved eastwards they found a plain in the land of Shinar where they settled. They said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks and bake them in the fire.’ (For stone they used bricks, and for mortar they used bitumen). ‘Come,’ they said ‘let us build ourselves a town and a tower with its top reaching heaven. Let us make a name for ourselves, so that we may not be scattered about the whole earth.’

 

Now the Lord came down to see the town and the tower that the sons of man had built. ‘So they are all a single people with a single language!’ said the Lord. ‘This is but the start of their undertakings! There will be nothing too hard for them to do. Come, let us go down and confuse their language on the spot so that they can no longer understand one another.’ The Lord scattered them thence over the whole face of the earth, and they stopped building the town. It was named Babel therefore, because there the Lord confused the language of the whole earth. It was from there that the Lord scattered them over the whole face of the earth.

 

Psalm 103(104):1-2,24,27-30,35 ©

 

Send forth your spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth.

or

Alleluia!

 

Bless the Lord, my soul!

Lord God, how great you are,

clothed in majesty and glory,

wrapped in light as in a robe!

 

Send forth your spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth.

or

Alleluia!

 

How many are your works, O Lord!

In wisdom you have made them all.

The earth is full of your riches.

Bless the Lord, my soul.

 

Send forth your spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth.

or

Alleluia!

 

All of these look to you

to give them their food in due season.

You give it, they gather it up:

you open your hand, they have their fill.

 

Send forth your spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth.

or

Alleluia!

 

You take back your spirit, they die,

returning to the dust from which they came.

You send forth your spirit, they are created;

and you renew the face of the earth.

 

Send forth your spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth.

or

Alleluia!

 

 

1 Corinthians 12:3-7,12-13 ©

 

No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ unless he is under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

 

There is a variety of gifts but always the same Spirit; there are all sorts of service to be done, but always to the same Lord; working in all sorts of different ways in different people, it is the same God who is working in all of them. The particular way in which the Spirit is given to each person is for a good purpose.

 

Just as a human body, though it is made up of many parts, is a single unit because all these parts, though many, make one body, so it is with Christ. In the one Spirit we were all baptised, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens, and one Spirit was given to us all to drink.

 

 

Gospel Acclamation

Alleluia, alleluia!

 

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful

and kindle in them the fire of your love.

Alleluia!

 

The Gospel of John 20:19-23

 

As the Father sent me, so am I sending you: receive the Holy Spirit

 

In the evening of the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.

 

‘As the Father sent me,

so am I sending you.’

After saying this he breathed on them and said:

‘Receive the Holy Spirit.

For those whose sins you forgive,

they are forgiven;

for those whose sins you retain,

they are retained.’

 

(NJB)

 

1st Sunday of Ordinary Time (Pentecost)

 

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