Pentecost Ecumenical Service, Clogher Cathedral, 8 June 2014

Reflection on Pentecost

Ecumenical Service

Clogher Cathedral, 3.00pm

8 June 2014


“The love of God has been poured into our hearts by his spirit living in us” Rm 5:5, 8:11

The story of the Universe, our story, begins and ends in God’s love. We could be described as the overflow of God’s love. The whole story is told in God’s own book, the Bible, including how we failed to follow the directions given to us. We did not treat the garden and its delights as we were told and were temporarily banished. But God’s love followed us and he sent his son Jesus Christ to coax us to change our ways and return to our source of light and life.

The Bible indicates to us that the public working life of Jesus, during which he fulfilled the mission entrusted to him by the Father, lasted about three years. He emptied himself in self-giving, sharing the word with us and breaking bread. In the process he took a merciless bruising which culminated in the events which we commemorated in our worship during Holy Week. He had attracted, called and trained a group of followers who would continue his work after his return to the Father and be witnesses to what he did and said.

His rejection by the Jewish leaders and the Roman authorities took its toll on these disciples. Only a few faithful followers are named as present on the journey to Calvary and at the foot of the cross. After the death of Jesus on the Cross it appears that they moved about sparingly and cautiously. Their dreams shattered, their spirits downcast, their confidence dented, their gathering seemed reduced to prayer, and comforting and supporting each other in an Upper Room where they broke bread.

But God’s love is both powerful and life-giving. New shoots can grow and thrust their way up towards the sunlight through flooded plains and scorched stubble. Bit by bit, after many incidents and appearances, the disciples come to recall and to understand what they had been taught and what, they came to realise now, they had misinterpreted. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus and Thomas had pretty full reconversion experiences. Gradually, the badly shaken group came to realise that if Jesus was not present to them in the same manner as before, that he still walked with them.

Jesus explained to the downcast travellers to Emmaus that what may have seemed like a shameful failure ending in death was, in fact, a necessary conclusion to a successful if painful mission. Several times they recognised him only at the breaking of bread. There were occasions when their faith continued to be painfully purified as they were asked to rid their hearts and minds of self-interest, self-love and illusions of power which have no place in the kingdom of God. They came to see that at times when they thought God was not there for them, he was actually beside them but they could not see him as their hearts and minds were preoccupied and clouded over with other concerns.

Ascension and Pentecost have their own language. There are paradoxes in the mystery of presence and absence. Often we only understand and appreciate others after they go away. When someone physically leaves us, we may experience their presence in a deeper way which may be warm, nurturing and less vulnerable to the brittle nature of normal relationships. If we open our hearts and minds more fully, we might see that some form of Ascension and Pentecost may occur every day.

God was with his faithful followers after his death, after his resurrection and after his return to the Father. He did not leave us orphans and had many instructions to give us. He is still with us in the Holy Spirit offering us knowledge and understanding, wisdom in making decisions and courage in doing. He continues to talk to those who listen and instruct those who seek his help. He renews our appreciation of the beauty of his creation and the power of his love in saving us from self-destruction.

“The love of God has been poured into our hearts by his spirit living in us” Rm 5:5, 8:11


+Liam S. MacDaid

8 June 2014

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