The Spirit resides in a dying body

Tom Bartolomeo
Pentecost Sunday C 2013
Acts 2, 1-11; Psalm 104;
Romans 8, 8-17; John 20, 19-23 (John 14: 15-16, 23b-26)
Reproduced with Permission

"Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of thy faithful and enkindle in them the fire of thy love and they shall be created, and thou shall renew the face of the earth," so we pray. But the Holy Spirit had never been away, has always been here from the beginning of the creation of the world. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth", we read in the first book of the Bible. "The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters." (Genesis 1, 1-2).

God Father, Son and Holy Spirit communes with us in a manner which he chooses as he did in the Son of God, the Word "made flesh." But God the Holy Spirit and God the Father have always been with us. For a time the Son of God who became man lived in the flesh among us, died and ascended into heaven which we celebrated last Sunday, the first man to enter heaven as God disposed. But why did Jesus say that the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, would not come unless Jesus departed since the "Advocate" has always been among us? (cf. John 16,7). Some of the confusion, I imagine, which the Apostles endured during their time of transformation between Jesus' death, resurrection and ascension although he did said that he would not leave us "orphans." He is certainly here in the Eucharist, hidden physically in bread and wine but here nonetheless in the flesh, his body and blood as God disposes. But the question remains, Why would Jesus have to leave? The truth be told Jesus' place among us has always been about the Spirit of the Christ in his first relationship with us as children of God in the spirit. The prophet Jeremiah tells us that God knew us before we were born in the flesh. (Jeremiah 1:5). This strange amalgam of ours, body and spirit, material and immaterial essences, only God could conceive which is mostly beyond our comprehension although we know all too well that we are in part spirit in mind, heart and soul like nothing else in this world although we take our spirits so much for granted so continuously concerned for our bodies which are dying while our spirits remain immortal.

It is interesting that the Father did not wait to send the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, on Pentecost since he was here all the time and on the day of Jesus' resurrection, fifty days before Pentecost, Jesus appeared to his Apostles on the day of his resurrection and "breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained." (John 20:21-23). Fifty days later at Pentecost the Holy Spirit then publicly appeared to Jesus' Apostles and disciples and instilled in them the understanding, power and courage of Jesus transforming them finally into the Apostles they were called to be. "As the Father has sent me I send you", Jesus had told them. (Ibid.) Would we have had Jesus grow old with us and remain an everyday familiar person among us? The Apostles' familiarity with Jesus, God in the flesh, we know, had its shortcomings, not only for people in general but his Apostles as well. His human presence belied his divine presence as it does today. Consider how readily we carelessly act in the presence of Christ among us in the signs of himself, the Eucharist, the Mass and the Sacraments with so much presumption and familiarity. It may be our ordinary way of relationships in the flesh - what we see, hear and touch with such casual familiarity although our spirits, minds, and wills should direct our relationships with God with reverence. Wait until I, his unworthy intermediary at this Mass offer, "The Peace of the Lord be with you all", and notice how many will break out into distracted conversation just moments before receiving the body and blood of Christ saying, "Lord, I am not worthy . . .". (Why I no longer invite the congregation to extend Jesus' invitation of peace to others while he is so slighted.)

How pesky our eyes, ears, feelings and emotions can be. They dominate so much of people's lives when God is calling them to live in the spirit. This was the central admonition the Apostle Paul taught his parishioners.

If Christ is in you the body is dead because of sin, while the spirit lives because of justice [he said]. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, then he who raised Jesus from the dead will bring your mortal bodies to life also, through his Spirit dwelling in you. (Romans 8, 10-11).

"If his Spirit dwells in you" . . . If. The sins we hold back from the confessional, from repentance are blights on our spirits and souls which are only known to us and God, invisible to others and perhaps unseen cancers destroying our spirits and well being. Yes, we should pray, "Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of thy faithful and enkindle in them the fire of thy love, and they shall be created and thou shall renew the face of the earth." This is the work of God in the world today, repentance so that "they shall be created" in his Spirit of life, love and . . . 'fire' if need be.

It is his work now, the Holy Spirit's, to teach us everything and remind us of all that Jesus had taught. Yet, our spirits may not be holy as His Spirit's when his voice can not get a word in edgewise with all the chatter of the world around us, all the favors we heap upon our nagging egos and bodies. The core of our being is not in our bodies. Our bodies have been dying from the day of our birth, not our souls. We can, of course, continue to subvert our spirit's inclination to seek what is above, to subvert our spirit's inclination to "love, joy, peace, patient endurance, kindness, generosity, faith, mildness and chastity, the gifts of the Holy Spirit and seek what is below, "the cravings of the flesh" as Saint Paul told us. (Galatians 5 ff). Come Holy Spirit fill the hearts of thy faithful and enkindle in them the fire of thy love any they shall be created and thou renew the face of the earth. Amen.