Reject mediocrity, embrace vibrancy

“The Holy Spirit, whom Christ the head pours out on his members, builds, animates, and sanctifies the Church” (CCC, No. 747).

Jun 03, 2022

                           Reflecting on our Sunday Readings with Fr Clarence Devadass

Pentecost Sunday (C)
Readings: Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11;
Romans 8:8-17;
Gospel: John 14:15-16, 23b-26

Jesus told His disciples, “Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7). If the Incarnation was God’s promise fulfilled, Pentecost marks the fulfilment of Jesus’ promise. On this day we recall the moment Jesus gifted the apostles and disciples and His Mother Mary, who were assembled in Jerusalem, the gift of the Advocate, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it (Jn 14, 17) – the promise fulfilled, once again.

We often associate the third person of the Trinity with the supernatural gifts that the Holy Spirit brings into our lives, for example, the ability to speak in tongues, to lay hands and pray for healing, and the knowledge to discern or prophesy God’s will, etc. To this day, the events on that first Pentecost amaze us — winds blew; fire erupted; people found themselves speaking in languages that amazed and inspired those who were present. However, the Pentecost that we celebrate today may not be as dramatic as it was 2,000 years ago but yet it must transcend our fixation to look for supernatural signs.

The primary purpose of Jesus sending the Holy Spirit is clear in the Gospel today: “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you.” In other words, the Holy Spirit will continue to instruct where Jesus had left off as He ascended to the Father. The mission of the Holy Spirt is to reveal Jesus (instruct), the Word made flesh, and to make Jesus “fully alive” in each of us – to teach us how to become more and more like Jesus. Our first and second readings today bear testimony to how Jesus was “fully alive” in the early Christian communities. It wasn’t mediocrity that we see but a vibrance that was infectious. More and more people came to know about Jesus because the early disciples couldn’t contain the Good News of having encountered Jesus and how He has transformed their lives. The vibrancy of the early Christian communities was founded on Jesus’ command to love God and one another: “If you love me you will keep my commandments”.

In this post-pandemic era, the Church needs a renewed vibrancy both in worship and in mission. Many of us want to return to the pre-pandemic days, back to our secure comfort zones, the uninterrupted familiarity and at times even the malaise of mediocrity and complacency. If that is the case, what a tragedy for the life of the Church. More than ever, after an unprecedented life-changing period, the Church needs a renewed vibrancy that is life-giving, fosters holiness, and zeal to share the gift of faith in Jesus Christ with those we encounter.

As we come out of this pandemic, we need to examine if spiritual mediocrity, complacency, and lethargy have gotten a grip on us. We need the Holy Spirit to renew us now more than ever – reject mediocrity, and embrace vibrancy. To be a vibrant Church (parish community) possibly does not require some grand initiative to change the world, a conference on the Holy Spirit, or even a structured plan for the mission. Vibrancy does not reside in the ability to perform supernatural gifts. Spiritual vibrancy begins when there is an awareness in us that initiates a generous response and obedience to Jesus’ teaching of the greatest commandments: “Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and all your mind,” and, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”

The prayer of Jesus for His disciples before His passion is that they be one (unity). This unity can only be possible when it is founded on love, a model that Jesus showed us to follow at the Last Supper. Love is a gift of God, and the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s action is unity. Christian love must be life-giving or else the Church (we) become barren. The Holy Spirit is neither reserved nor the possession of some movements in the Church – it belongs to all who profess, I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.

The Easter season may come to an end today, but the vibrancy of an Easter people must continue every day, at every opportunity. Let this be our prayer this Pentecost: Help us, Lord, to be a vibrant Church, allowing me to radiate the love and light of the Gospel through prayer and action. Take away spiritual mediocrity and grant me vibrancy that only the Holy Spirit can bring. Like the early Christian communities, may my life be an invitation to all to share in and be caught up in Your divine life. Amen.

(Fr Clarence Devadass is the director of the Catholic Research Centre and parish priest of the Church of St Anthony, Kuala Lumpur)

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