Who is God?This is a core question for any religion.Even within traditions like Judaism, Christianity and Islam that profess one God, names and attributes given to the one God abound.While Hebrew Scriptures favour the tetragramatton (YHWH), they also use other words like Elohim, Adonaï and Shaddaï, and countless metaphors and attributes (Rock, Shield, Shepherd, Almighty, Merciful, etc.).Muslims also revere God as One under the name of Allah, but one of their most common prayers consists in reciting the ninety-nine attributes of Allah.
After all, “God” is just one word among many to speak about a Supreme Being and about the divine, and we know that we will never get to the end of understanding who God is.The Solemnity of the Holy Trinity is a powerful reminder for us that the mystery of God cannot be enclosed in one word.We have come to know, through Jesus, that God is Father, Son and Spirit.We need not be able to explain how this works.Suffice it for us to be aware that “God’s love has been poured into our hearts.”God is love, fullness of love.God is life, fullness of life.God is life – and love-giving, for God is Father, Son and Spirit.So we believe and so we pray, filled with wonder at the riches of God’s mystery.
The times, they are a-changin’ – and at an ever-increasing pace.How should we respond?If the changes promote human welfare, we should do our best to support them.If they diminish human welfare, we should do our best to thwart them.As Christians we have an agenda of our own for change.Indeed, we are challenged to change the world!
The feast of Pentecost is about precisely such a change.The first reading sets the tone of the challenge, assuring us that as we work at changing the world, the Holy Spirit is with us.In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he makes it clear that all Christians are gifted with the Spirit: “you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you.”Thus the same Spirit that came upon the apostles also comes to all Christians.
In the gospel, Jesus assures his followers that he will give them “another Advocate, to be with you forever.”This Spirit, Jesus promises, “will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.”
What a fire at Pentecost!It is still burning, changing our world into a new heaven and a new earth.And we, the Spirit’s envoys, are challenged to keep the Pentecost fire burning.Then all peoples will be able to cry out, as we do, “Abba, Father!”
Life, it seems, is full of goodbyes.So often we must bid farewell to children leaving the nest, to family and friends who move away, or to a loved one who has died.Sometimes we feel only a gentle sadness tempered by hope; sometimes our hearts are broken by grief.
In today’s gospel the disciples are once again saying goodbye to Jesus.As he prepares to depart from this earth, he offers them some parting gifts; the gift of understanding, so that they can now fully comprehend the meaning of the Scriptures; the promise that they will receive the power of the Holy Spirit; a final loving blessing.
The reaction of the disciples shows a striking transformation.Luke tells us that they returned to Jerusalem with great joy, praising and worshipping God.How different this is from the frightened little band who had cowered indoors, hiding from the authorities, after the crucifixion.Now they are clearly filled with the Holy Spirit.Their eyes and hearts are opened, and their faith and courage are strong as they undertake their mission to be witnesses and proclaimers of the Good News.
May we, his disciples today, recognize and celebrate the ongoing presence of Jesus in our lives, and the power of the Spirit to transform and heal even our deepest fears.