Bishop Declan’s Pentecost Message

Pentecost brings 50 days of Easter celebrations to completion with the coming of the Holy Spirit, filling the hearts of God’s people with the fire of God’s love and renewing the face of the earth. Pentecost is the birthday of the Church. The beginnings did not look too auspicious as the disciples were hiding behind locked doors for fear of the authorities. They were a group of vulnerable people whose lives had been shattered and whose hopes had been destroyed. What changed them in a remarkable way was the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit gives them courage and strength to witness to Jesus, the Christ, without fear or anxiety. In the Acts of the Apostles we are told that the disciples were given the gift of speaking foreign languages so that all nations might hear about the marvels of God. There was one language, the language of God, for many nations. Unlike the Tower of Babel where the languages would cause a division among the people, the language of God heals divisions, unites humanity and brings peace between God and humanity and the whole of creation. At the birth of a child people often wonder what the child will turn out to be. At the birth of John the Baptist there was such a reaction. At the birth of the Church we can ask the same question: what will the Church turn out to be? Throughout history the Church has adapted and reformed in response to the joys and sorrows of particular times and cultures. Today the Church finds different ways to proclaim and celebrate the Gospel. The means may change but the message remains the same – the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus. The message is life giving and is the way to the truth of life. Within the community of the Church there are millions of people who are gifted by the Holy Spirit. We, all of us, are part of that people. There are many gifts but always given by God for the good of others. Each one of us is created for a good purpose. We discover that purpose through the loving service we give to others. It is in giving that we receive. In this time of Covid-19 many people have shown great generosity. Neighbours who may have been strangers to one another have become friends. People who have felt alone and isolated have experienced the care and love of people who they did not previously know. The first disciples were not unique in experiencing fear, hiding behind locked doors. All of us experience fear at certain times in our lives. Fear can paralyse us and make us feel useless and powerless. Pentecost puts an end to the fear. The Holy Spirit fills us with the fire of God’s love. Though the circumstances that cause us fear may remain the same, the fear is taken away. The Coronavirus has been a cause of fear and uncertainty, making people feel vulnerable, especially when faced by the death of a family member or friend. People ask when will it end. When will we be able to get back to how things were before the pandemic? However, we cannot return to how things once were. The experience worldwide has made a difference to our lives. We can only live in the present moment and look to the future. We need to reflect on what we have learnt from our experiences of the Coronavirus both individually and institutionally – including the Church. Pope Francis compares the Church to a field hospital. The Church must not hide behind locked doors but be in the midst of people listening to their voices and bringing healing and hope to those who are afflicted physically, mentally, spiritually and socially. This will make us vulnerable and we will make mistakes, but we will be giving ourselves and others reasons for living in the present and looking with hope to the future. We are called to have a sense of togetherness in this our common home and a sense of wonder about the whole of creation entrusted to our care. To us today Jesus says: Peace be with you. As the Father sent me so am I sending you. Receive the Holy Spirit.