Are We Filled with Fear or the Holy Spirit?
Jesus set forth the establishment of His Church when He told Peter, “You are the rock, upon you I will build my Church” (Matthew 16:18). But the actual birth of the Church took place on Pentecost Sunday with the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles.
The Old Testament clues us in that the feast of Pentecost was when Jewish pilgrims gathered in Jerusalem from various parts of the world: Europe, Asia, and Africa, to celebrate the festival of thanksgiving for the first fruits of their harvest (Numbers 28:26). It was during this event, this Jewish celebration, that the apostles hid in a room and stayed in prayer. Most likely praying, they would not be found and treated to the same cruel death that Jesus had just undergone. They had locked themselves up in that room out of fear.
In our Gospel, for this Sunday of Pentecost, John recalls how Jesus came and stood in their midst. The first words that Jesus speaks are, “Peace be with you.” With that peace Jesus was making it possible for the apostles to break free of fear.
If we recall, last Sunday, Jesus, just before his ascension, told his apostles to go and wait in Jerusalem until the coming of the Holy Spirit. The apostles returned to Jerusalem, and this is where we find them hiding in a room with the doors securely locked. It took the power of the Holy Spirit to finally break the lock that held the apostles. It was the Holy Spirit that gave them the peace and understanding to go forth and share not only the Gospel message but their gifts, yes, their spiritual gifts, that Paul speaks of to the Corinthians in our second reading. And from then on, the apostles were liberated from the fear of the Jews.
In some ways, we may realize that we are locked up. We may fear sharing our gifts with others due to how we might be looked upon and even ridiculed for our spirituality.
During the liturgy of the Eucharist, the priest or deacon will say, “Let us offer each other the sign of peace.” This is not meant to be a simple greeting to one another; this Peace is the Peace of Christ. This sign is meant to drive away the fear; it is meant to open our hearts and minds to the presence of Christ standing there before us in the Eucharist. This Peace calls us to carry Christ from this celebration out into the world and, by using our Spiritual Gifts, ensure that the message of Jesus Christ is spread throughout the world.
Let us pray that the Holy Spirit breaks any and all locks that bind us in fear and grant us the freedom and courage to share our gifts.
May the Holy Spirit fill your hearts.
Deacon Jeff Borski