Pentecost Sunday (4th June)

John 20:19-23

A young relative of mine had the reputation for ‘being good with’ crying babies. She would take them into her arms, hold them up in front of her and they would stop crying. How did she do it? What magic did she work? Some years later she divulged her secret. She would blow gently into their faces. She ‘faced’ them with a gentle breeze and that changed everything for them.

The Collins Sunday Missal has an excellent introduction to the feast
“Today we celebrate the great day of Pentecost when Christ filled the Church with the power of his Spirit and sent it out into the world to bring his peace, joy and forgiveness to all humankind.”

While the disciples were gathered together huddled, cowered in fear, the breath of life sucked out of them by the horror of Calvary, the Risen Lord appeared to them. He breathed new life into them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
This changed everything for them. They were sent…
It also changes everything for us. At our Baptism we received this breath and in our Confirmation it was renewed. We too are sent fortified by the gifts of the Spirit to bring the Good News to our world.

Our 2017 world is plagued by many horrors, which we see in all their graphic detail on our television screens. One horror that despite the efforts of many Spirit filled people still sadly remains is that our planet, the only home we have, is choking with pollution caused mostly by the burning of fossil fuels. Its temperature is rising, glaciers are melting, and sea levels are rising. Planet Earth is crying out for healing but many of us are not listening. It’s not that we don’t know how to respond. A number of years ago we heard about the hole in the ozone layer. We got that. We were told that pollutants, aerosols in particular, were doing the damage. We stopped buying them and resourced ozone friendly substitutes. Now we know that the hole in the ozone layer will be completely healed by 2050. This is Good News. This is clearly an over simplification but we heard about the danger, we understood it, we got the message and we did something about it. We brought about the change, which made the difference.

Today, the CO2 emissions and to a lesser extent methane and nitrous oxide that are doing so much harm are coming from our car exhausts, our power stations, our rubbish dumps, our chimneys. Someone once said that if the emissions were black we might take this issue seriously. We have seen people in large cities in the East walking down the streets wearing facemasks to avoid breathing in toxic fumes. Is this what we want for generations to come? Do we want to hear them saying, “why didn’t you do something” or are we actually going to pay attention to this serious issue?

Some years ago research was done in a university campus in the United States. Each residential building was given a reading of the energy output of its electrical appliances. They were shocked to see what was happening and made some positive changes. However, when the result of the readings was published in the college magazine and each building compared its result with that of the other they changed even more. The element of competition had entered in and made the difference. Then a large organisation called OPower rolled this system out globally and the difference was even greater again.

This research saddened me. I was obviously pleased that some improvement had taken place but only when people were in competition: one dorm against another, one store against another, one city against another, one country against another. Just today I read the following: Ireland is planning to introduce sustainable-energy buses to public transport fleets by next year, in an effort to reduce our carbon emissions to avoid EU fines. My spirit lifted until I read the last three words.

We must ask ourselves the question, what motivates us to do the right thing- wanting to be better than the next and wanting to avoid fines! There is no mention of receiving the life giving breath of the Spirit and being sent to, bring healing to our planet. There is no mention of responding to the heartache resulting from global warming, the plight of those who have lost their livelihood in the poorer coastal regions of the world with the smallest carbon footprint, polar bears losing the ground from under their feet, farms in some places no longer able to function because of the change in temperature and lack of water resulting in climate refugees. Why are we not responding? Has the breath of life been sucked out of us too by our modern Calvaries?

I conclude with a suggestion to all but in particular to our Dominican brothers and sisters over the world. Can we take some of this obviously very efficient OPower and use it to breathe the life of the spirit into our ailing world so that we can make the difference.

“Blow, blow, blow till I be, but breath of the Spirit blowing in me.”

Kathleen Fitzsimons
Mary Bellew House

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