miércoles, 11 de junio de 2014

The Magnificence of Truth at Pentecost

Pentecost Sunday
June 8, 2014
Jn 20:19-23

Hans Christian Andersen once wrote a story of two cunning swindlers who made an emperor and his entire realm believe that they were weavers of splendid fabric that was visible only to the wise and competent. In reality, the swindlers just pretended to weave and sew but with nothing in their hands at all. Since no one wanted to be tagged as either stupid or incompetent, the royal court officials tasked to observe them and even the emperor himself feigned viewing the bogus vestments being made for the monarch.

On the day of the imperial procession, the emperor wearing the so-called “magnificent royal garb” strutted haughtily on the street. The truth is — he had nothing on but his undergarments. Given the purported “invisibility clause” the swindlers attached to their “woven fabric”, all the people watching the royal pageantry praised the “lovely imperial robes” until a boy so candidly shouted “But he’s got nothing on at all! He’s naked!” Only then did everyone get back to their senses and yelled, “Indeed, he’s naked!” The emperor shuddered at the revealed truth but chose to march on even more proudly; so did his courtiers carrying the “invisible train.”

The honest boy in the tale had just had his Pentecost moment, a moment for the magnificence of truth. Today, we celebrate the hour the Spirit of Truth made himself fully manifest in the lives and persons of Christ’s chosen disciples. The Gospel reading for the day (Jn 20:19-23) brings to fore the kind of Spirit Jesus had bestowed upon his frightened disciples still in hiding. When Jesus appeared to them in the evening of Easter Sunday, he said, “Peace be with you” [v.19] and he repeated the same verb-less greeting in Greek [v.21]. And then “he breathed on them, saying, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’ ”[v.22]. In their time of dread and anxiety, Jesus came to console them with the Spirit of Peace, and to re-invigorate their dying hope. He breathed on them the Breath of Life.

Fifty days after the Resurrection, the disciples were still taking refuge in that same “room upstairs”—the Cenacle, as tradition put it—withdrawn from public view, protected by each other’s company. As promised, the Holy Spirit came like a howling wind and appeared as tongues of fire that rested upon each of them according to the First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles (2:1-11). What helped us recognize the empowering Spirit who descended upon them was the marvelous event that immediately followed: the disciples, transformed into inspired and fearless messengers of the Good News, went out, spoke various languages. Led by Peter, they addressed the crowd and proclaimed the truth about the person of Jesus Christ “whom you [meaning, the Jews of that era] crucified” but whom “God raised up and freed from death”, “and now all of us [apostles] are witnesses.” That was the Spirit of Truth at work; that was the apostles’ communally experienced Pentecost moment.

Here we run into a paradox: Jesus, the Prince of Peace, is also the One who brings forth the Spirit of Truth. Earthly reality tells us that a person who finds the courage to speak the truth — like the boy in the Andersen fairy tale or the apostles from the day of the Pentecost and onwards — can no longer expect to live in peace because, when the piercing truth begins to sting, to stare and to lay bare, it will surely give rise to hostilities, causing peace to disintegrate. Jesus himself is our best example. From the time he revealed through his ministry the Truth about himself and our salvation, he was no longer at peace with the Judaeo-Roman society and the leaders of the Jewish faith. What remained, however, was his Peace from within himself arising from his singular desire to fulfill the Father’s Will even at the cost of his life.

Jesus knew it all too well from his own experience. That was why on that Easter evening when he felt the fear and anxiety of his chosen witnesses, he first granted them the indwelling of His Peace, the kind that the world cannot give. To sustain them in their coming ministry of evangelizing the world, he also breathed on them the Breath of Life. Finally, to empower and fortify them as his witnesses, he sent them the Spirit of Truth on the day of the Pentecost.

Yet the best gift the apostles received was their profound realization of who and what the Holy Spirit was in their lives from that moment. They no longer hid, they no longer feared, for they already recognized from then on that their mission to spread the Gospel of Truth in Jesus Christ was being sustained by that one and the same Spirit manifesting himself in various ways according to necessity.

Here is a God who cared so much for his chosen apostles of Truth that he provided even for their spiritual needs through His Holy Spirit. How much more for us now, we who gather together as one Church, as witnesses of Truth in the contemporary world?

As we remember today the Descent of the Holy Spirit who ushered the birth of our Church, let us ask the Lord to grant us, despite our unworthiness, our own Pentecost moments, our personal moments of Truth, when we can experience the Holy Spirit in solid encounters and be able to recognize him at work in our life — calming, defending, empowering, sustaining and loving us, manifesting in various ways according to our spiritual needs and to the demands of the Gospel of Truth.

- Sem. Dennis Mercurio


Lord Jesus, you gave your disciples your peace during their moments of doubt and fear. May we who received the same at our baptism rediscover that gift within, and learn to truly share Christ's peace to the world. Amen.

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