GOSPEL COMMENTARY June 5, Jn 20:19-23 or Jn 14:15-16, 23b-26
Being in a parish with a great school means there’s never a day without a “what if” question. School children are an endless source of hypotheses, always thinking of another bizarre example to test any teaching or rule. State any principle, for example, “It’s always good to tell the truth,” then wait for the wave of “what ifs” to come. What if it was a villain or an alien? What if, what if, what if?
One certainty left behind as a result of all the “what if” questions is that our world is a complicated place, more so than any moral or manual system could ever address. No single written code or tradition could answer all the “what ifs” on its own. To navigate the modern moral jungle, we would need a living guide, one in the midst of our hearts, to help us make progress.
Thanks be to God that our faith is alive, and we have just such a living guide in and through the Holy Spirit. It is precisely this fact that we celebrate today on the Solemnity of Pentecost. The two options for the Pentecost Sunday Gospel, Jn 20.19-23 and Jn 14.15-16, 23b-26, tell us about Christ sending the Spirit into our hearts to make us alive in the life of God.
By virtue of our baptism and confirmation, the Holy Spirit dwells in each of us and works in each of us, if only we are open to his direction. Moreover, the Spirit works in the church to animate it through the ages, helping us to remain faithful to the faith we have received, while allowing us to meet new challenges and grow to embrace the modern landscape. .
The result of this: through the Holy Spirit, the church is a living thing, a vibrant guide in our midst living in the very life of God himself. Moreover, as Christ promised us in the Gospel, the Spirit is present to “teach us everything and remind us of what he has told us”. Although no moral manual compiled by Jesus could ever cover all the “what ifs” of the future (it would just be too big and cumbersome), we are not left helpless. We have an Advocate: The Spirit guides the church through the apostles and guidance of the printing press in the age of the Internet, from sailboats to spaceships and beyond. In every age, Christ teaches and dwells in us through the outpouring of the Spirit.
The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is not only true for the church, but also for us as individuals. Since the Spirit is present in each of our lives and hearts, it means that God is intimately present with us, guiding our thoughts and our choices, empowering our actions, loving in our love. We just have to listen and be open for help. The Spirit helps us to make the right (but often difficult) choices, to carry our crosses as an offering to God, and to pray within us with prayers deeper than words. Our daily prayer to be open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit goes a long way. It is also no coincidence that one of our gospels mentions the forgiveness of sins. A good confession is the surest way to invite the Holy Spirit back into our hearts.
On this Pentecost Sunday, as we remember the great gift we have in the Holy Spirit, we invite the Spirit to dwell in our hearts, to love and guide us, to be present in our thoughts and actions, and lead us to heaven. Moreover, we realize that even if life gives us an endless stream of “what ifs”, the Spirit helps us to face them with a childlike confidence, listening and open to the teaching of Christ in our midst. , yesterday, today and forever.
Prof. Miserendino is parochial curate of St. Bernadette Church in Springfield.