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2013-06-16 message

posted Jun 18, 2013, 4:02 PM by St. John's Webmaster

I sometimes wonder about the period between Ascension and Pentecost. Christ had ascended, but the Holy Spirit had not yet come. Christ had spent forty days after His resurrection teaching the disciples and opening their minds to understand the Scriptures (cf. Lk. 27:45), yet they were still not ready to go out and become apostles. Something was still missing: the Holy Spirit, Who was to guide the apostles (Jn. 16:13) had not yet come.

Our tradition tells us that the disciples spent this time in fasting and prayer, preparing themselves for the time when they would begin their ministries to the nations. Even though they did their part, the proclamation of the Gospel needed something – or, rather, someone – else. The proclamation of the Gospel, the good news of God, needs the Holy Spirit because God is different. He is uncreated, so He is not subject to the laws of this universe. God cannot be reached by a logical progression. You may be able to make an argument for His existence, but that is not the same thing as proclaiming the Gospel.

God revealed Himself to the Hebrews, He came down in the form of the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, and encountered us. He reached to us, He came where we were, He met us, He walked with us, He became what we are. This is the good news: that God met us where we were in order to lift us up to where He is. Proclaiming the Gospel, therefore, is an encounter and an encounter with God is an encounter with the uncreated. As human beings, we cannot stretch forth into the uncreated. We cannot force God to reveal Himself. Therefore, this encounter needs to take place in the presence and with the facilitation of the uncreated in the person of the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes we think that by trying harder, working harder, doing more we can fix everything and that can happen within the Church as well. At these times it is worth remembering that we need the Holy Spirit. When it comes to the life of the Church, to the proclamation of the Gospel, we need to do everything with this awareness and with the prayer that the Holy Spirit guide us, enlighten us, and inspire us.

This period between Ascension and Pentecost reminds us of this through the emptiness at the beginning of the morning and evening prayers. We have finished singing “Christ is risen” but do not yet begin by praying “Heavenly King, comforter, the Spirit of truth, […] come and abide in us.” The “Heavenly King” returns to our prayer life next Sunday, at Pentecost. May we pray it with renewed fervor throughout our lives.

With love in the risen Christ,
+Fr. Peter