May 11, 2008
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

First Reading: Acts 2:1-11
Psalm 104:1
Second Reading:
1 Cor. 12:3b-7, 12-13
Gospel: Jn. 20:19-23

Theme: Different, But One Peole of the Same Creator

At Pentecost, we celebrate the birth of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. The Church is “One” and “Holy” because God is its singular foundation. The Church however, may seem “divided” and considered “not holy” because human beings administer its activities. The Church is “catholic” because it is universal and inclusive of all that desires its passion for justice and peace, for love and harmony. The Church is “apostolic” because it is mandated to never stop preaching the gospel message to the ends of the earth.

The message of Pentecost is similar to the wishes of a dying person. A dying person wishes that family members might be united as one. As priest, I have witnessed all about this desire “to be united as one.” Anointing a sick person with the Sacrament of the Sick, the dying would request that I express wishes to children to remain as one. So when you hear the word “Pentecost,” what goes through your mind? Personally, the Holy Spirit speaks to our hearts and minds that we may be different with different gifts and talents, yet we are all ONE, untied into the One Body of Jesus Christ. The Spirit comes “that they – that we may be one” [ut unum sint]; that “we may be of one heart and mind” [cor unum et anima sint]. We note that the Passion, the Death, the Resurrection, and the Ascension of Jesus form a culminating chain of events of mysteries that prepare the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples and us.

At Pentecost, we see a different God with a differing attitude, who makes a distinct declaration, that there is no longer a “chosen” race, but “a chosen people” – a people sent forth as disciples with the zeal to spreading the gospel message to the ends of the earth. You and I are now among the luckiest to proclaim God’s message to the world beginning from our homes, families, children, siblings and friends.

The presence of the Holy Spirit, privileges us with a close, warm relationship with God. This affinity explains why we can confidently identify God as our “Papa.” At this time, my heart goes to you – children – whose fathers did not accept responsibility or are not responsible now for your upbringing. I urge you to never lose hope, because our gracious “Papa” has “given to each one of us a manifestation of the Spirit for the common good" [cf. 1 Cor. 12:7]. With God on our side, each believer can emancipate the self and become as Jesus. By the presence of the Holy Spirit, God has turned us into a new creation that not only passes on the faith to future generations, but also, as God’s new agents of unity, peace and joy. We express these aspects, especially through the Sacraments of the Sick and Reconciliation. These sacraments, we know, heal our wounds, divisions and deformities so that we may not only maintain but LIVE the Kingdom indiscriminately and irrespectively of persons.

We are different people in this parish and at this Mass. Oh, how beautiful it is that despite our diversity in cultural differences, religious formation and upbringing, the Spirit binds us together, uniting us to the charisma of the same Jesus. In other words, in God, there are no exceptions; all are equal. Thus, no matter our role in the Church or in our parish – from Pastor to Council members to parishioner – all of us have been given specific talents through which to participate in spreading God’s Word. None is superior or inferior because Jesus is our ONE SUPERIOR. I want to assure you that your ministry in the parish, your physical presence or monetary contribution is not on the fringes of recognition. I believe that the Spirit does not call us to just put up with each other's differences. It calls us to VALUE each other's difference as a unique manifestation of the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit towards unity. Should we subscribe to the conviction that the Holy Spirit – which – basically LOVE – the driving force that draws the Father and the Son to work for the other and in conjunction with each other, then, obviously, we cannot impose individual religious perceptions or convictions upon others.

At Pentecost, God revealed himself to us yet once again so that we could recognize him in the breaking of the bread at every Eucharist – at meal at home or at a social so that we could hear his voice and recognize him in a lovely relationship, in friendships, in the tremendous mystery about beauty that overwhelms us in as all we see in nature, and in the life-giving presence that others bring us when we are down or are in need or another’s hand. Essentially, Pentecost calls us to benefit from each other’s difference and uniqueness, so that being possessed by him, we may we may be truly ONE.

As the doors were unlocked to free the disciples, let us also, by our participation in this Eucharist, unlock our hearts of every action or difference that imprisons our freedom “to seek to be united as one!”

Father John-Baptist Okai
Priest Moderator
St. Cecilia Parish, Regina SK Canada

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