St. John’s presentation in today’s Gospel gives us a picture of some of the first followers of Jesus who have come together. A group of frightened people, who even though they had walked with Jesus for three years, are now pictured behind closed doors for fear of the Jews. It is not what one would have expected for the beginning of who we are as Church today. But it is to such a group that Jesus, showing the signs of his sufferings, makes his presence known. We are told “he stood among them.”
His greeting was these reassuring words, “Peace be with you” spoken to them, not once but twice. Then his words, “As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” His Gift, as promised, of the Holy Spirit, was conveyed not only in words but also by breathing on them. In the symbolism of breathing on them and saying the words was he expressing to them, and to us, the enormity of this Gift?
How different is this group from us as church today? This Gospel resonates with us at this time when we have been asked by Pope Francis to look at ourselves as church, to share with others our experience of church. Haven’t we too experienced ourselves, behind closed doors, as it were, and full of fears for ourselves, for our Church, for our world? But haven’t there been times, whether alone or with others, when we have been aware of the peace and of the guidance of the Spirit?
At our Confirmation we were offered the life of the Holy Spirit. Today on this great Feast of Pentecost we have the opportunity to renew our awareness and our confidence in the Holy Spirit who, in spite of (or maybe because of) our perceived unworthiness, is with us this moment, this day, always.
May the Holy Spirit help us to open the doors of our hearts so that we too will know the joy, the peace of God’s presence with us. May we make the words of today’s Responsorial Psalm, our own, knowing that in this way, we too can respond to the invitation to be sent:
“Send forth your Spirit O Lord and renew the face of the earth.”
Mary Daly OP