The Gift of the Spirit is Unity in the Midst of Differences and Diversities. The month of May is a month
The month of May is a month of festivities in many parts of the country. Last May 15, we had the famous tourist-drawing Pahiyas of Lukban, Quezon, with their colorful display of food and agricultural products in the facade of their houses. Neighboring towns that are located at the foot of Mount Banahaw have similar versions of this harvest festival. The month of May is a month of harvesting and it is the most opportune time for thanksgiving and festivities.
The feast of Pentecost is originally a feast of harvest, people thanking God for the abundance of his blessings. Later on, following the development of Jewish liturgy from the cosmic to the historic, this feast became rapidly the celebration of the deliverance from Egypt, particularly the Sinai covenant which took place fifty days after the Jews’ departure from Egypt. The Sinai now becomes the symbol of abundance of life as God considered them as his people.
Literally, the word Pentecost means fifty. Today is the fiftieth day after Easter and we celebrate the outpouring of the Spirit on the disciples. It is the fullness of God’s gifts, the abundance of God’s love. It is the beginning of the Church’s mission to the world, a harvest of people instead of agricultural produce. At its heart is the gift of the Spirit that created the Church and continued to move people to undertake the preaching of the word.
The gospel today is the same one that we read on Easter Sunday. It is an account of how Jesus gave his disciples the Holy Spirit wherein they were recreated. They in turn were sent to forgive sins. The word used is “ruah”, the same word the sacred scriptures used in the Genesis creation account. Christ in breathing on them reproduced the creative breath of the Genesis. As new creation, the disciples are empowered to preach the Good News of God’s mercy, the heart of which is the forgiveness of sins.
1. Today, the charismatic movements, especially in Metro Manila, have their annual gathering. They consider this feast as their feast day. It seems that they have also appropriated this feast as their own. Since most of us are not into the renewal/ charismatic movement, it makes us feel that we are not filled with the Spirit. There is a tendency to highlight the extraordinary manifestations of the Spirit, like gifts of tongues and gifts of healing, to the detriment of the far more numerous routine outpouring of the Spirit. There is a penchant for unabashed emotionalism, enthusiasm on prophetic trances and orgiastic frenzies. Sometimes our charismatic brothers/sisters can make us feel insecure if we don’t experience radical change in bodily temperature or what they call, “slain by the spirit” as if it is the sole mode of being Spirit-filled. The bottom line criterion for determining the authenticity of an alleged gift of the Spirit is whether it strengthens faith and the bond of unity.
2. The Spirit breathes where it wills. It is through the individual with his unique gifts that the Holy Spirit operates par excellence. Everybody has experienced his gentle urgings. Those moments in our lives when we are tempted to surpass ourselves, to do something bordering on the heroic, to reach and help out someone in trouble, to sacrifice our time and well-being for totally unselfish reasons, those are moments when we are spirit-inspired. In reality, those moments are rare and the number of times we yielded to those temptations is rarer still. Probably the real failures in our lives are not bad temptations we succumbed to, but the good we resist to do. We should give way to our generous impulses instead of pulling back at the last moment, thereby thwarting the promptings of the Spirit.
3. Most importantly, the gift of the Spirit is unity in the midst of
differences and diversities. The Acts of the Apostles implies that Pentecost is the reversal of the Tower of Babel. The biblical imagery of confusion, division and despair that reigned among the people is contrasted with the unifying gift of the Holy Spirit. With the descent of the Spirit, people of different races understood the disciples’ proclamation in their own language. Unity is not uniformity. We should see differences as enriching, not threatening the unity of the community. We should be able to harness, rather than alienate others with their various gifts, affirm and appreciate them but putting them into service for the common good.