MAY 27, 2007- PENTECOST: ACTS 2:1-11; 1COR 12: 3-7, 12-13;JHN 20:19-23
JESUS BREATHED ON THEM AND SAID: ARECEIVE THE HOLY SPIRIT.@ Although St. Luke in the Acts of the Apostles provides a version of Pentecost quite distinct from the imparting of the Spirit to the Apostles as St. John depicts it, both agree that the risen Lord Jesus, acting as one with the Father to whom he had ascended, is the source of the gift of the Spirit. The two accounts are not in conflict but rather are complementary; they both indicate a freshness and increment of life that empowers the Church. The version of Luke indicates the source of that preaching which was to spread over the whole world; St John focuses on the authority given the chosen ministers of the Church to judge sin and absolve from it. Since, as Luke>s text tells us elsewhere (7:48), only God can forgive sins, and as John shows Jesus forgiving the sin of the adulterous woman, both evangelists claim Jesus possesses divine power. John in today=s Gospel shows that he imparts this prerogative to his chosen disciples.
Already by the time the Acts and John=s Gospel were put into writing the communities of believers had been living from the traditions concerning the person and teaching of our Lord for a full generation. These oral teachings and the living memory of the person of our Lord were preserved intact in the collective memory of the congregation of believers and more vividly in the minds of the men inspired to record these traditions in writing. They were impelled to make this written record by the Spirit of Jesus who lived in the Church from the time of his resurrection eve when he breathed upon his apostles and imparted the Spirit in whom he is united with the Father.
The words first lived in the minds and hearts of men who put their faith and trust in our Lord. They are a witness to the life of the Spirit within them and within the congregation of the faithful. By their means the life and words of the Savior and their implications for his followers in daily life after he returned to the Father are transmitted to us today. More, it is the Spirit himself who is conveyed in the Tradition as lived by the gathered faithful who is transmitted in their message as it is handed down through the ages. As the Epistle to the Hebrews puts it: AThe word of God is living and active; it cuts like a two-edged sword, but more finely ... it can judge the secret emotions and thoughts. No created thing can hide from him.@(4:12,13) Notice how in this passage the word comes alive and is personalized. The word continues to be the vehicle of the Spirit who lives in it still.
When Saint Bernard reflected on the great issue of love and its transformations he treated of the various levels of our human condition as we progress in the way that leads to union with God through love. His analysis is remarkable in its subtle insight into the refinements of love for he recognizes the fact that at various levels human desire is governed by sets of laws that correspond to the world created by the nature of our loves. In reading one of the more important modern physicists, David Bohm, it is striking to see how he arrives at this same principle through his explorations into the subtle workings of the material universe. He includes in his examination the structure of the brain and its operations as reflected in consciousness under the influence of desire. (See AThe Essential David Bohm@, 208-213), and shows the need to purify desire in order to arrive at a true perception of reality and so be free to experience a love associated with understanding of truth. He stops short, however, of recognizing the bearing this natural development of human consciousness has for the knowledge and love of God that Bernard concerns himself with. The abbot of Clairvaux leads us into the very life and nature of the blessed Trinity and as he does so indicates the nature of the Spirit of God under the name of charitas, charity. Here are his words:
The immaculate law of God is, then, charity which seeks not what is useful for itself but for many. It is called the law of the Lord either because he lives by it or because nobody can possess it save by his gift. Nor does it seem absurd to say that even God lives by a law since I say that law is nothing else than charity. Fr what in the highest and blessed Trinity conserves unity save charity? And so charity is a law, and it is the Law of the Lord which binds as it were the Trinity in unity and links it together by the chains of peace.(De Deo diligendo xii.54, PL 181:996)
We can understand our life, our relations in this world, and our own self only when we receive the great gift of charity that is the Spirit of Jesus uniting us with his person and so with the Father. And giving rise to this understanding is the light and love that enable us not only to perceive God in his creation and in the words and person of Jesus, but also to walk in his ways. We celebrate today and at this Eucharist the gift of this Spirit who imparts new life to us and with this divinely oriented life the same love that unites the Son and the Father in their one Holy Spirit.+
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger
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