Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, an Australian community, in a worldwide religious congregation.
Jesus loved with a human heart: with him we proclaim his love to the world.
We work to discover through advocacy, healing and reconciliation, God's presence in our world.
We are to be on earth the heart of God. God has no other heart but ours.
- Published: Wednesday, 16 May 2018 22:25
LITURGY NOTES FOR PENTECOST SUNDAY 2018
May 20, 2018
Suggested formula for recognition of indigenous people and their land.
(Any of these can also be recited by all in the congregation)
We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we stand
We pay our respects to them for their care of the land
May we walk gently and respectfully upon the land.
I acknowledge the living culture of the ……..people,
the traditional custodians of the land we stand on,
and pay tribute to the unique role they play in the life of this region.
We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land where we are now gathered,
(the ……) and recognise that it continues to be sacred to them.
We hail them: as guardians of the earth and of all things that grow and breed in the soil; as trustees of the waters – [the seas, the streams and rivers, the ponds and the lakes] - and the rich variety of life in those waters.
We thank them for passing this heritage to every people since the Dreamtime.
We acknowledge the wrongs done to them by newcomers to this land and we seek to be partners with them in righting these wrongs and in living together in peace and harmony.
We acknowledge the …………………….people the first inhabitants of this land.
We honour them for their care of the land
on which we gather today, and with them,
pray for justice and their constitutional recognition.
Information alone is not enough;
knowledge of injustice bears
the responsibility for direct action.
May the fire be in your thoughts
making them good and just
may it protect you from all harm
may the fire be in your eyes
may it open your eyes to see what is good in life
may it protect you from speaking against another.
May the fire be in your ears
we pray that you may hear with deep listening
so that you may hear the flow of water
and of all Creation and of the Dreaming.
May you be protected from gossip
and from those things that harm and break down your family.
May the fire be in your arms and hands
so that you may be of service and build up love.
May the fire protect you from all violence.
May the fire be in your whole being, in your legs and feet
enabling you to walk the earth with respect and care
so that you may journey in the ways of goodness and trust
and be protected from walking away from what is true.
Prayer used by Aboriginal people in the Kimberley region for 1000s of years
First Reading Acts 2:1-11
Responsorial Psalm Ps 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34
Second Reading 1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13
Gospel Jn 20:19-23
1. Jesus, you breathe on us the Spirit who can make us understand one another and help us to appreciate and support one another: Jesus, have mercy.
2. Jesus, you breathe on us the Spirit that unites us in love and makes our loving creative: Christ, have mercy.
3. Jesus, you breathe on us your Spirit to liberate us from all paralysing fears enabling us to serve with joy: Jesus, have mercy.
1. You send down the fire of your justice and pour out your Spirit on all. Jesus, have mercy.
2. You send down the rain of your love and your sons and your daughters prophesy. Christ, have mercy.
3. You send down your Spirit to breathe life into your people where the old dream dreams and the young see visions. Jesus, have mercy.
God of Wind and Fire,
may the Spirit surprise us
with fire and vigour
to make us young at heart and new again.
Let your Spirit renew our lives
and bring us tenderness and joy,
openness to one another,
and the courage to stand up
for all that is right and just
so that all divisions between peoples
may be dispersed.
God of Wind and Fire,
breathe your life-giving Spirit
on us and on our world
to refresh us and make us new and free.
May we be inflamed
with the fire of your love and freedom
so as to be open to your wisdom and peace and courage.
Prayer over the Gifts
God of Wind and Fire,
as your Spirit comes upon these gifts of bread and wine,
help us to show your healing presence
to all the world
by raising our voices in words of peace.
God of Wind and Fire,
the Spirit has brought us together
around the table of your Son.
May it heal all that divides us
and set us free from hatred
so that, one in heart and mind,
we may give praise to you.
Prayer after Communion
God of Wind and Fire,
we have listened to Jesus speak his word to us
and shared in the bread of life.
May your Spirit put fire in these words,
that they may burn within us
and shake us from indifference
by prompting and urging us
to transform our world.
God of Wind and Fire,
the Holy Spirit has opened our hearts
to understand the Word of your Son.
May it give us the courage
to bring the Good News to the poor,
and set one another free
from all injustice and hardness of heart,
so that we may live in peace with one another.
Introduction: Let us pray to God to pour out the Spirit on us and on the world. The response is: God of Wind and Fire, hear our prayer.
- Pour out your Spirit as living water on the world: May the Spirit come to enlighten and strengthen all those with a political responsibility: that justice and peace may be their daily concern, we pray: God of Wind and Fire, hear our prayer.
- Pour out your Spirit as inspiration in the world: May justice and the common good be uppermost in the hearts of those all church, government business leaders who make decisions that affect the lives of many people, we pray: God of Wind and Fire, hear our prayer.
- Pour out your Spirit of courage on the world: May people of vision and deep concern for justice share their vision of human interconnectedness, stand firm in their convictions and find support when they are challenged, tested and persecuted, we pray: God of Wind and Fire, hear our prayer.
- Pour out your Spirit of wonder on the world: May poets, writers and artists who point us to the beauty of the world around us also point us to the beauty and dignity of each person and to places in need of transformation, we pray: God of Wind and Fire, hear our prayer.
- Pour out your Spirit as a burning fire on the world: May the Spirit enlighten and convert all those with an economic responsibility so that solidarity and sharing will guide their decisions, we pray: God of Wind and Fire, hear our prayer.
- Pour out your Spirit as a bond of grace on the world: May the Spirit enlighten and gather together all people who scattered by the events of life and put hope in their hearts to start a new life, we pray: God of Wind and Fire, hear our prayer.
- Pour out your Spirit as a cry of expectancy in the world: May the Spirit enlighten and guide all who have heard your call to bear witness to your Good News of God’s unconditional love for all, we pray: God of Wind and Fire, hear our prayer.
- Pour out your Spirit on all closed doors and hearts: May the Spirit unlock hearts that lead to exclusion, racism, ethnic conflict and military rivalry, we pray: God of Wind and Fire, hear our prayer.
- Pour our your Spirit who people who may be in danger of losing hope: May the Spirit stir in people an awareness of the suffering and cries for liberation and autonomy of the Palestinian people and the people of Papua, we pray: God of Wind and Fire, hear our prayer.
- Pour out your Spirit on a world that cries out for peace: May your Spirit grant the gift of peace and help us to eliminate war, violence and terrorism, we pray: God of Wind and Fire, hear our prayer.
Concluding Prayer: God of Wind and Fire answer our prayers. May the Spirit, alive in us, spread your love among all people, today and forever.
May 24 Foundation of the World Council of Churches in 1948World Oceans Day
May 25 Mary, Help of Christians, Patron of Australia
May 26Feast of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (last Saturday in May)
May 27 National Reconciliation Week begins
Week of Prayer for Reconciliation begins
Referendum changes articles in Australian Constitution that discriminated against Indigenous people
This Grace That Scorches Us
A Blessing for Pentecost Day
Here’s one thing
you must understand
about this blessing:
it is not
for you alone.
It is stubborn
Do not even try
to lay hold of it
if you are by yourself,
thinking you can carry it
on your own.
To bear this blessing,
you must first take yourself
to a place where everyone
does not look like you
or think like you,
a place where they do not
believe precisely as you believe,
where their thoughts
and ideas and gestures
are not exact echoes
of your own.
Bring your sorrow.
Bring your grief.
Bring your fear.
Bring your weariness,
your disgust at how broken
the world is,
by its fighting,
its penchant for power,
its ceaseless repetition
of the history it refuses
to rise above.
I will not tell you
this blessing will fix all that.
But in the place
where you have gathered,
Lay aside your inability
to be surprised,
your resistance to what you
do not understand.
See then whether this blessing
turns to flame on your tongue,
sets you to speaking
what you cannot fathom
or opens your ear
to a language
beyond your imagining
that comes as a knowing
in your bones,
in your heart
that tells you
this is the reason
we were made:
for this ache
that finally opens us,
for this struggle,
that scorches us
toward one another
the blazing day.
—Jan Richardson from Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons
‘Those in whom the Spirit comes to live are God's new Temple. They are, individually and corporately, places where heaven and earth meet.’
‘Dreams grow holy put in action.’
Adelaide Anne Procter
‘If you want to speak to God, tell it to the wind.’
African Proverb, Ghana
‘Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.’
‘A sedentary life is the real sin against the Holy Spirit. Only those thoughts that come by walking have any value.’
Friedrich Nietzsche, 19th century
‘Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.’
Ralph Waldo Emerson
It is so important not to let ourselves off the hook or to become apathetic or cynical by telling ourselves that nothing works or makes a difference. Every day, light your small candle.... The inaction and actions of many human beings over a long time contributed to the crises our children face, and it is the action and struggle of many human beings over time that will solve them—with God's help. So every day, light your small candle.
Marian Wright Edelman Guide My Feet
So many people feel so overwhelmed and disempowered by the stresses of modern life that they convince themselves they can't make a difference. So they don't even try. They bury their talents in the ground and let their spirits wither on the vine of life. I hope they will bestir themselves at least to say every day as an anonymous old man did: ‘I don't have the answers, life is not easy, but my heart is in the right place
Marian Wright Edelman, Guide My Feet
Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.
For once on the face of the earth
let's not speak in any language,
let's stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines,
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.
Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.
Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victory with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.
What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.
If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.
Now I'll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.
Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), ‘Keeping Quiet’ Extravagaria (translated by Alastair Reid) Jonathan Cape, London, 1972, pp.27-29 (original Estravagario, Editorial Losada, Buenos Aires, 1958)
Prayers for the Earth
For once on the face of the earth let's not speak in any language
Let's stop for one second and not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment without rush, without engines.
We would all be together in a sudden strangeness.
Fisherman in the cold sea would not harm whales
And the man gathering salt would look at his hurt hands.
Those who prepare green wars, wars with gas, wars with fire,
Victory with no survivors
Would put on clean clothes and walk about with their brothers
in the shade doing nothing.
What I want should not be confused with total inactivity,
Life is what it is about.
I want no truck with death.
If we were not so single minded about keeping our lives moving,
And for once could do nothing,
Perhaps a huge silence might interrupt this sadness of never
And of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.
Pablo Neruda Prayers for the Earth
To be a disciple means to put one's feet in the footsteps of Jesus and, in the power of his Spirit, to continue in one's own historical time and place his mission of announcing and signing the coming of the reign of God. Together as church, the community of disciples is in a unique way called to be the instrument of the reign of God in history. Since peace and justice are among the most powerful signs of the reign of God present in this world, it belongs to the essential mission of the church to make these realities more visible in our time, so marked by oppression, violence, injustice and threat of total destruction. Following Jesus on this way may well cost disciples their lives--the servants are not greater than the master. But the community of disciples must go on witnessing throughout the conflicts of history, drawing courage from their memory of Jesus, from their experience of his continuing presence in the Spirit, and for hope in the final victory of the coming reign of God’.
Elizabeth A. Johnson, Consider Jesus: Waves of Renewal in Christology (NY: Crossroad, 1990 p. 77)
It is not only the leaders of nations who build the world of tomorrow. The most obscure and humble people can play a part in bringing about a future of peace and trust
Brother Roger of Taizéfrom open letter ‘To the Wellsprings of Joy’ 2004
Look around and you will see the presence of Christ.
Look around and you will hear the call of God.
Look around and you will know the Power of the Spirit.
Look around and you will be empowered.
Look around and you will be filled with joy.
You will be involved in the struggle for justice and peace.
You will hear the voice of God among the impoverished of the world.
You will hear God speak in the struggle for peace and justice.
You will be led into life and grace.
God dwells in the world.
Prayer for a New Society
All-nourishing God, your children cry for help
Against the violence of our world:
Where children starve for bread and feed on weapons;
Starve for vision and feed on drugs;
Starve for love and feed on videos;
Starve for peace and die murdered in our streets.
Creator God, timeless preserver of resources,
Forgive us for the gifts that we have wasted.
Renew for us what seems beyond redemption;
Call order and beauty to emerge again from chaos.
Convert our destructive power into creative service;
Help us to heal the woundedness of our world.
Liberating God, release us from the demons of violence.
Free us today from the disguised demon of deterrence
That puts guns by our pillows and missiles in our skies.
Free us from all demons that blind and blunt our spirits;
Cleanse us from all justifications for violence and war;
Open our narrowed hearts to the suffering and the poor.
Abiding God, loving renewer of the human spirit,
Unfold our violent fists into peaceful hands:
Stretch our sense of family to include our neighbours;
Stretch our sense of neighbour to include our enemies;
Until our response to you finally respects and embraces
All creation as precious sacraments of your presence.
Hear the prayer of your starving children. Amen.
© Pax Christi USA, 1995
The Place Where We Are Right
From the place where we are right
flowers will never grow
in the spring.
The place where we are right
is hard and trampled
like a yard.
But doubts and loves
dig up the world
like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard
where the ruined
house once stood.
Yehuda Amichai, The Selected Poetry of Yehuda Amichai, (New York: Harper & Row, 1986)
The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.
We have to start teaching ourselves not to be afraid
On a summer morning / I sat down / on a hillside / to think about God / a worthy pastime. / Near me, I saw / a single cricket; / it was moving the grains of the hillside / this way and that way. / How great was its energy, / how humble its effort. / Let us hope / it will always be like this, / each of us going on / in our inexplicable ways / building the universe.
Mary Oliver, Song of the Builders
…for nonviolence seeks to 'win' not by destroying or even by humiliating the adversary, but by convincing [the adversary] that there is a higher and more certain common good than can be attained by bombs and blood. Nonviolence, ideally speaking, does not try to overcome the adversary by winning over [them], but to turn [them] from an adversary into a collaborator by winning [them] over.’
Thomas Merton, Faith and Violence: Christian Teaching and Christian Practice
During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.
You're not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can't face reality. Wrong is wrong no matter who does it or who says it
Everybody's worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there's a really easy way: stop participating in it
Every war when it comes, or before it comes, is represented not as a war but as an act of self-defense against a homicidal maniac.
…may Christ inflame the desires of all people to break through the barriers which divide them, to strengthen the bonds of mutual love, to learn to understand one another, and to pardon those who have done them wrong. Through Christ’s power and inspiration may all peoples welcome each other to their hearts as brothers and sisters, and may the peace they long for ever flower and ever reign among them.
Pope John XXIII,Pacem in Terris, #171
Finding one’s own voice, however haltingly, imparts the power of the Spirit crying out. The boldness to hear the claim of conscience and follow its deep impulses even in the face of loss; the courage to taste righteous anger and allow it to motivate critical resistance to evil; the willingness to utter the prophetic word--these occurrences inscribe the movement of the Spirit’s compassion into the ambiguity of the world.
Elizabeth Johnson CSJ,She Who Is, p. 126
The civilized have created the wretched, quite coldly and deliberately, and do not intend to change the status quo; are responsible for their slaughter and enslavement; rain down bombs on defenseless children whenever and wherever they decide that their ‘vital interests’ are menaced, and think nothing of torturing a man to death: these people are not to be taken seriously when they speak of the ‘sanctity’ of human life, or the ‘conscience’ of the civilized world.
James Baldwin, The Devil Finds Work [Collected Essays, 1998]
Whenever a human community resists its own destruction or works for its own renewal; when structural changes serve the liberation of oppressed peoples; when law subverts sexism, racism, poverty, and militarism; when swords are beaten into ploughshares or bombs into food for the starving; when the scores of old injustices are healed; when enemies are reconciled once violence and domination have ceased; whenever the lies and the raping and the killing stop; wherever diversity is sustained in koinônia; wherever justice and peace and freedom gain a transformative foothold–-there the living presence of powerful, blessing mystery amid the brokenness of the world is mediated.
Elizabeth Johnson CSJ, She Who Is, p.126
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, defend the rights of those who have nothing. Speak up and judge fairly, and defend the rights of the poor and needy.
I refuse to accept the view that [mankind] is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war, that the bright daybreak of peace and [brotherhood] can never become a reality.
Through skyscraper canyons
you come, Holy Spirit,
down lanes and arcades
from the north, from the south,
from within and without,
the roar of Pure Wind
In houses of parliament
you come, Holy Spirit,
into lawmaker’s chambers
from above, from below,
from ally and foe,
as the roar of Pure Truth
Through grand Gothic arches
you come, Holy Spirit,
to choir and high altar
from the west, from the east,
from the font and the feast,
the roar of Pure Fire
Bruce D Prewer, Australian Prayers. Open Book Publishers
The Grace to Shout
Today we ask the grace to shout when it hurts, even though silence is expected of us,
and to listen when others shout though it be painful to hear;
to object, to protest, when we feel, taste, or observe injustice,
believing that even the unjust and arrogant
are human nonetheless and therefore worthy of strong efforts to reach them.
Take from us, Guiding God, the heart of despair and fill us with courage and understanding.
Give us a self that knows very well when the moment has come to protest.
We ask the grace to be angry when the weakest are the first to be exploited
and the trapped are squeezed for their meagre resources,
when the most deserving are the last to thrive, and the privileged demand more privilege.
Come Holy Spirit. Come! Fill the hearts of your people.
Come Holy Spirit that we may be aware:
Aware of the people around us,
especially the poor and oppressed;
Aware of the children,
the young people,
all the people striving to grow
into their dignity as children of God;
Aware of the world around us,
especially the environment with its plants and animals,
with its land and water,
with its air and space,
with all its mystery;
Aware of the structures of power,
especially those that keep people
poor or powerless or confused or unfree;
Aware of the violence and the threats of violence,
which are not the way of Jesus
Aware of our selves and our bias and stereotypes
and all our unfreedom;
Aware of all the possibilities
for freedom and joy and life.
Come Holy Spirit.
Fill the hearts of your people.
Give us the freedom to see.
Give us the wisdom and courage to speak.
Prayer to the Holy Spirit
Come Holy Spirit, breathe down upon our troubled world.
Shake the tired foundations of our crumbling institutions.
Break the rules that keep you out of all our sacred spaces,
and from the dust and rubble, gather up the seedlings of a new creation.
Come Holy Spirit, enflame once more the dying embers of our weariness.
Shake us out of our complacency. Whisper our names once more,
and scatter your gifts of grace with wild abandon.
Break open the prisons of our inner being,
and let your raging justice be our sign of liberty.
Come Holy Spirit and lead us to places we would rather not go.
Expand the horizons of our limited imaginations.
Awaken in our souls dangerous dreams for a new tomorrow,
and rekindle in our hearts the fire of prophetic enthusiasm.
Come Holy Spirit, whose justice outwits international conspiracy,
whose light outshines religious bigotry,
whose peace can halt our patriarchal hunger for dominance and control,
whose promise invigorates our every effort:
to create a new heaven and a new earth, now and forever. Amen.
Diarmuid O’Murchu msc
The Spirit Who Blows
How can we face the pain and the plight of those who live in the dark?
How can we open the locks that are tied round many a mind and a heart?
How can we liberate people in hope for the new day that dawns on us all?
The answer my friend, is blowing in the wind, the answer is blowing in the wind!
While parliamentarians fail to inspire and financiers convolute;
And the powers from on high are so blind and confused – even Church folk can’t recognise truth!
While systems collapse and things fall apart, a new birth emerges elsewhere.
The future, my friend, is blowing in the wind, the future is blowing
Let’s listen instead to the margins crying out, the voices for too long subdued.
Lets listen instead to our Planet, the Earth, whose story we oft misconstrued.
The wisdom of women ignored and repressed, is haunting our world anew.
So, new hope, my friend, is blowing in the wind, new hope is blowing
How can we reclaim a faith to sustain the prophets that open new ways?
And can we discern the disturbing voice of the Spirit who now recreates?
We need a new heart and a mind open wide – receptive to this hour of grace.
Just listen, my friend, to the vibrating wind, the answer is blowing
The Spirit that broods at creation’s first dawn, unravelling the chaos of life,
Continues to breathe in the birthing and dying, in the longing, the struggle and strife.
For God’s sake don’t tie down the Spirit that blows, reweaving the rhythms of time.
We’re called to befriend what’s blowing in the wind, the Spirit who blows in . . .
Diarmuid O’Murchu msc
Reflections for Pentecost Sunday
Last month the chaplain to the US Congress was sacked by the Speaker when he prayed, ‘…may all members be mindful that the institutions and structures of our great nation guarantee the opportunities that have allowed some to achieve great success, while others continue to struggle. May their efforts these days guarantee that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.’ The Speaker was freaked out by these words spoken in November 2017 during the debate on overhauling the tax system. What was stunning was that the prayer got to the Speaker in the first place. Where moral accountability seems to have been banned from many parts of the government, including our own, it can be upsetting and fearful to those in power as it shows up in a tamed and caged democracy when a reckless chaplain calls out through prayer for a fairer taxation system. Prayer is a refusal to settle for what is unjust and silence and tacit consensus protects privilege – and the privileged are always the silencers. The very act of prayer is a way to remain courageous because it is an act of resistance against discouragement and defeat. It is a cry in solidarity with those who cry for mercy across the planet to hear the cries of refugees, children, and those wrongfully imprisoned.
This weekend we celebrate 50 days after Easter. Though it marks the birth of the church, it is more interesting and risky than that. It has everything to do with our stormy Mondays and Tuesdays etc. The coming of the Holy Spirit opens up new horizons for us and is the story of God’s commitment to the world. Peter, in his sermon, names places and ways in which God is active or visible in the world ‘today’. It is also a time for turning outward. I read recently that the reference to ‘the gift of tongues’ would be more accurate as ‘the gift of ears’ where it was the surrounding crowd from many places who heard in their own languages. It is what they heard that mattered – not what was said. Often today the church speaks in a foreign language and few are listening and fewer understanding. The expectation is that outsiders will learn our incomprehensible language. An overarching question is whether we discover God in the past (doctrine and dogma) or in the future (beckoning from the horizon). Instead of seeking to ‘talk’ people into our framework, we can find that begin to understand their language by hearing rather than speaking. We might find that it is among the broken, the poor, the outcast, the stranger, the violated and the enemy, that many crave love rather than morality, healing rather than correction, acceptance rather than judgement, belonging rather than membership. It is in hearing the cry of the poor and disenfranchised, that we hear the invitation of God to be with them. Stevie Wonder, in one of songs says it this way, ‘Would you like to go with me/Down my dead end street/Would you like to come with/To village Ghetto Land’.
The kinds of the people who welcome and accept the Spirit are those who welcome peace, forgiveness. They recognise the divine stalking among them and in creation. In a world riddled with violence and racism and hatred, the Pentecostal vision seems to invite us not to settle for the world as it is but to dream of the world as it could be. The joy of Pentecost is that it gives us a vision and hope for, Martin Luther King dreamed of, a ‘beloved community’ made possible through the work of the Spirit. Can we be open to the disruptive and surprising ways of the Spirit, that empowers us to reach across differences in order to experience radical and insurgent communions?
These events of Pentecost invite us to ponder this question: Will we be vulnerable and willing to experience holy disorientation—as the disciples did during ancient days—in order to announce a new humanity? Will we allow our voices to speak a language of good news that can be heard by all people, especially those who are as vulnerable as the Jews of the diaspora were under the Roman imperial order and as countless people are under American empire today?
Luke (in Acts) shows how the wider world was impacted by the Spirit - in ways that people could hear and understand one another as well as acknowledge God’s all-inclusive love. Diversity became a blessing where people previously maintained and protected their differences behind walls of ethnocentrism. Now, irrespective of ethnic background, nothing was lost by becoming one with all others who understood that God was moving among them. They grew to understand that they had a part in God’s plan and were being given the courage to move that plan forward. The gift of understanding transcends logic and celebrates differences. The community now hears the good news of God’s peace, love and reconciliation irrespective of their background and were never the same. The Spirit comes over the crowd of people from many lands now gathered in Jerusalem…. and as always there are and will be an endless array of voices, of deep understanding. All speak. And all listen. Hearts and minds are deeply open. The gospel reminds us that the wisdom of Easter is peace spoken and received. The tongues are the voices that speak for God. They are the voices that remind us of the beauty of creation and the need to protect it. They are the voices that remind us that we are all sisters and brothers and bear the image of God. They are the voices that challenge inequality in all its forms. They are the voices that call for peace with justice through forgives and reconciliations. So often we can be preoccupied with the demeanour and the experiences of public voices, yet those who speak for God often come to us from lives of people we might even reject.
In 1938, Albert Camus, speaking to Christians at a monastery, expressed his concern that as preparations for the World War II were underway, the number of victims grew, and as fear spread, the Church seemed unconscionably silent. When it did speak out it was obtuse or abstract. He said bluntly:
For a long time during those frightful years I waited for a great voice to speak up in [the Church]. I, an unbeliever? Precisely. For I knew that the spirit would be lost if it did not utter a cry of condemnation when faced with force….What the world expects of Christians is that Christians should speak out, loud and clear, and that they should voice their condemnation in such a way that never a doubt, never the slightest doubt, could arise in the heart of the simplest person. That they should get away from abstraction and confront the bloodstained face history has taken on today. The grouping we need is a grouping of people resolved to speak out clearly and to pay up personally.
The Holy Spirit is a very political bird. Pentecost openly, directly and publicly encounters the system. Border protection cannot stop the Spirit. Authoritative lines are not only crossed but blown off the spiritual map. Among other things, it signifies public freedom and freedom from fear. We might ask: will our lives be ruled by fear? Will we collaborate in our own oppression and that of people who need our help? Will we allow ourselves to be confined or defined by other ‘authorities or powers’? Will we have the courage to speak out or will fear cause us to remain silent? The locked doors in the gospel are more about a mentality where people duck and weave, lie low, run for cover or look over their shoulders when things get hot.
What begins in an upstairs room is completed when it hits the streets. The Easter message must go public if it is not to lose its power and relevance. The Acts of the Apostles show us people who refuse to be held down by the political or religious authorities. They begin to speak in loud and clear voices no one could doubt the meaning of the message. We did not hear much of that boldness or clarity when a chaplain of the US Congress is fired or an Australian bishop is forced to take early retirement for his bold questioning of churchy ways. Bishop Fulton J. Sheen once said that even though we are God’s chosen people, we often behave more like God’s frozen people: frozen in prayer life, in the way we related with one another, speak out against all kinds of injustice. Our mandate during the first Pentecost was to be courageous as Christ was and committed to serve all people unconditionally. From subaltern voices in government and economics come powerful and prophetic words. It is amazing how the narratives of the powerful, comfortable and the vain can gain respectability and traction and concerns about the ‘The Other’ and the outsider (asylum, employment, welfare) are considered distractions from the issues which keep them in power. It runs counter to the revolutionary community politics inaugurated by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost – where the cultural and political differences signified by the notion of ‘different languages’ is broken down; where the impetus comes from those who are seen as insignificant and valueless. Where the Advocate gives voice to the voiceless.
Taking to the streets requires living out the inclusiveness of the Spirit. The lines of nation, race, and culture could not limit this movement. The disciples received the Spirit which prompted them to question injustice; to be mindful of gender and generational gaps; to scrutinise discrimination. Women, men and children were newly valued and formed a praying, believing, serving community where political status did not count. All belonged to Christ; all were to be loved and cherished; all were regarded as worthy witnesses of the Gospel Each and every one gathered is ‘touched’ and each person hears the other’s native tongue spoken. You don’t have to speak English or French. Use your own language and your own way of being and doing things. When Jesus breathed the Spirit upon the disciples they realised their responsibility to extend healing and forgiveness by becoming agents of the new creation – as we are too. We are empowered to bring forth justice, to transform social policy, to be a life-giving force, to be animated and made aware of the incongruities, inequalities, injustice in our community.
We are reminded that the Spirit is God acting in the world. Jesus’ footprints are still on the earth – they now become ours. We each hear the gospel with our own ears and receive it in our hearts. Each of us has his or her own way of witnessing to it. One might do it by phone when someone is sick, fallen on bad times, needing reassurance. One might decide to take to the street in a rally to free refugees or call for a price on pollution and then continue to agitate in some way. One might decide to remain committed to a difficult neighbour or relative who is demanding or takes us for granted. One might act against any fears they feel.
So Pentecost is less what one says today but more about the very public speech we find ourselves involved in each day; of the actions flowing from a compassionate heart; of choosing to speak even when we were not sure of what to say or what the consequences of that might be. The prophet Joel’s are very heartening as he spoke of a day coming when God would say, ‘I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young people shall see visions, and your old people shall dream dreams.’ This work is not just for leaders, prophets and priests. Everybody gets to speak up for God; because church is the place where the power to speak belongs to all – and it must go out into the ‘streets’, into the world of people.
The Spirit comes in different places, different circumstances and different people with fullness of life and healing. The words filled with Spirit were spoken from the margins of the Roman Empire. They continue to speak from the margins of our world. All in all we are engaging in the practice of justice where lies, cover-ups and denials seem to prevail. All are words to do with life, peace, freedom. The Jesus who comes with the wounds in his hands, feet and side reminds us that the Spirit will take us into those places of suffering in our world and that those places of suffering call forth from us our compassion and touch. And to celebrate the Spirit, to celebrate the power of peace and forgiveness is to become makers of peace and agents of forgiveness in a world so much in need of healing, wholeness and holiness. We become what we celebrate!