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Saturday, May 18, 2013

RECEIVE! RESPOND! RETURN!


Pentecost Sunday (Year C)
May 19, 2013

RECEIVE! RESPOND! RETURN!

I would like to summarize today’s great feast in three words: received, responded to, and returned in kind.

Pentecost is all about receiving. The Gospel passage is very clear. The Lord says, “receive the Holy Spirit.” Let us go direct to the point. Christian life is such because we are gifted. Christian life is characterized primarily with receiving something that is not ours by our own merit, but by grace.

Today, the so-called birthday of the Church, we focus our sights on being gifted, on being recipients, on being enriched by the same God who created us, the same God who saved us, and the same God who now calls us to return what we received in kind.

The internet world is awash in articles that point to a growing narcissism epidemic. More and more people, young and old alike, are  becoming self-centered and spoiled brats who think they are burgeoning “cewebrities” or “celebutantes.” People’s profiles in facebook now are “picture perfect,” ideal, creaseless, ageless, and problem-less fairy tale existences. If one goes by the number of pictures of what they ate here or there, or the places they have visited, or the “languages” they speak, and the “achievements” they have done in the two decades of existence in this world, you would think everyone had a perfect childhood.

But nothing is perfect in the world. Let us name some, just in case we forget. First, after the Lord had been put to death, the disciples were not exactly moving up and about. They were cooped up somewhere “for fear of the Jews.” With their Master gone, despite the reported sightings of his Risen Body, the early band of believers were not exactly busy with what they were called to do. They were literally in hiding.

Second,  the Corinthians were exactly like us now … fragmented, disunited, and caught up in so much infighting and petty intrigues. Life was not rosy at all. Paul had to talk to them about being “one body with many parts,” about being different individuals yet belonging to the same community of believers.

Third, they probably each had some kind of talent and special skills which each one guarded very jealously. It was impossible, perhaps, to make them get their act together.

Fourth, and now this sounds very close to home base … Paul, in his letter to the Romans says that the believers, like us all, were continually drawn and pulled by the siren song of worldly flesh, instead of living in the Spirit. We are torn inside … and all of us, at one time or another, are behaving like “carnal Christians,” instead of “spiritual” ones, weighed down by lust, by thirst for creature comfort, and earthly concerns.

Today, though, all this, and more, was dramatically transformed, changed, renewed, and refashioned! How? Simply put, the promised Paraclete came down on the fearful, timid disciples. Today, we remember how we received the Spirit.

But history is not just about receiving. Today, we are told how those who received eventually responded. They were renewed! “The Spirit enabled them to proclaim.”

And so, the Church was born! They received gifts. They responded to those same gifts. And they what return did they make? They gave of the same gifts they received. They spoke in tongues, in different languages, and each one understood them in his own language! Those gifts sure were double-edged, double-bladed!

Last week, we were kind of scolded by the angel. Remember? “Men of Galilee, why are you staring up in the sky?” Don’t just stand there! Do something!

Today, we are given more than just a gentle nudge … Don’t just sit there. Don’t just be complacent knowing that you believe. Believe and belong! Receive. Respond to what you receive. And return in kind! Deep is calling on deep … love for love … faith for faith … Behave more than just disengaged believers, but more like empowered, enabled, and dynamic Christians!

So what are you waiting for? Don’t just sit there. Proclaim and stand proud of your faith!

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