Pentecost reminds us that we cannot be Christians alone
A reflection for Pentecost, Year A
by Fr. Peter Skudra
This Sunday we celebrate Pentecost, the day when Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit, who accompanies the Church, gives strength to us all, and makes us children of God.
There are many important themes that Holy Scripture offers us to meditate on, but I would like to focus on one: community. The Holy Spirit is given to the Church, to the community. We see this in the first reading, in which all of the disciples are gathered together and the Spirit comes upon them. The second reading talks about community, where there are different people with different tasks and gifts but everyone is united in one Spirit. And the same happens in the Gospel: Jesus gives his spirit to the whole community in order to continue his mission and to be able to forgive.
And when we pray our Creed, we see that our Fathers have connected belief in the Holy Spirit to the mysteries of the Church. We believe not only that we are united in one community with those we see coming to the same Mass with us but also with those who have lived long before us. The Holy Spirit unites us even with those who already enjoy eternity in God’s presence.
First of all, it reminds us that people can’t believe alone. There are people, even among Christians, who say that your faith is a private thing, that you should not bother others with it, and that it is not necessary to belong to a certain community because the most important thing is that you believe in your heart and have a personal relationship with Jesus. Yes. It is important to be in a personal relationship with Jesus, but it is in community that we receive and strengthen our faith. In this community we receive the Sacrament of Baptism, which makes us children of God, and in this community we also receive the rest of the sacraments in order to strengthen our faith.
Community is also the place where we can receive support from others when we have doubts, when we are tired from our journey, where we can meet others, and through friendships encounter Jesus. He himself promised to be present where two or three are gathered in his name.
In the second reading, St. Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit unites us in one Body. We are all united with Christ so that we become one flesh with him. And if we are united with Him, we are also united with those who are united with him because there is one Christ who saves us and one Spirit who unites us.
This community, the Church, is not some kind of secret community which only a few wise or chosen can be part of. The first reading from the Acts of Apostles shows us that it is open to everyone. Jesus came to the world to save everyone. The Church, which continues his mission, is open to everyone. Sometimes it is challenging to think that that other person who I would rather see going away instead of coming, can be part of God’s family and receive the same gifts. Think about the persecuted Church, which received even those who were persecuting it. St. Paul was among those who killed St. Stephen; he persecuted Christians and then became a Christian himself. Imagine that someone who has killed your friend or brother, who has persecuted you, now sits in the same pew with you.
It is a great privilege to be in this community. Here we receive faith and all of God’s graces. It is a support for us, but at the same time it gives us tasks as well. We do not go to the Church only to receive. We can also go to the Church in order to give. St. Paul writes that we all have different tasks in the same Spirit. We are all part of a Church which is missionary. So, it means that all of us are called to be missionaries. We all have something to give to the community, not only to receive from it.
I’d like to share an experience from my own life. I am part of a small, monthly prayer group, and I remember once when I was particularly tired, I considered skipping the meeting. But somehow, I forced myself to go. While sitting on a couch and waiting for others to come, I observed another man who looked as tired as I felt. “He has nothing to give me,” I thought, “and I have nothing to give him. We are both extremely tired.” And the same with the others. However, when the meeting was over and I went back home, I felt energized and strengthened. This episode taught me how we can experience divine power through our weakness and that God is among us when we meet each other. And although I have nothing to give and the other person has nothing to give me, in our poorness we both experience God’s richness. But it is necessary for us to come together in order to experience it. That is why you are so important to the community! Through your weakness others can experience God’s richness.
Friends, Jesus has sent us the Holy Spirit in order to unite us with himself. Let us make a personal relationship with him in order to know God better. We might ask how do we make a personal relationship with the Holy Spirit? I invite you to repeat this powerful prayer: “Come, Holy Spirit. Come, Holy Spirit. Come, Holy Spirit.” Repeat it as much as you want. Say it when you are in church, say it when you wake up and go to sleep, say it whenever it comes to your mind.
This feast of Pentecost I also invite you to thank God for the Church and your parish. It is a place where we can receive so much and we can also give much. I invite you to reflect on what you have received in your community: How have you experienced God’s power in your community? And spend some time listening to the Holy Spirit: What does He invite you to give to the community? What could your contribution be?
Happy feast of Pentecost!
The readings for Pentecost, Year A, are
1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13
Fr. Peter Skudra is a priest of the Diocese of Riga, Latvia. Born into a Catholic family and the oldest of four children, he was ordained in the summer of 2014. He is currently the director of Radio Maria Latvia and a chaplain for youth work in the Diocese of Riga.