Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Gathering Has Begun

That which has been scattered has now been gathered once more.

Today, we celebrate the Gathering. Today, as the Holy Spirit is pour out upon the Apostles, the Early Church, and us, we are reminded of the grand plan that God has had for the entire world from the moment He set to creating it. Today is Pentecost, the completion of Easter grace and Christ’s work of salvation.

As we celebrate this Gathering, it is important to recognize how we have been scattered. The word “devil” comes ultimately from the Greek word “diabolos,” which carries with it implications of “tossing around,” slander, and scattering. It is the devil’s job, as the scatterer, to accuse and slander humanity and all of creation. Consider Adam and Eve: Man, created in God’s image as male and female, was in perfect harmony with God, one another, and creation, until the jealousy of the devil began to create a rift between Man and God.

Once Adam and Eve sinned, that division extended to them personally (“The woman You put here made me do it”, “The serpent…”). Genesis is filled with stories of alienation and division. Look at the tale of the Tower of Babel, where all people used to speak one language until the pride of men sought to outdo God, and they were sent into confusion and “babbling.” All of Israel’s history is one story after another of separation, division, and scattering. In fact, the presence of Jews in Jerusalem in the First Reading today reflects this scattering, as Jews of the “diaspora” came together to celebrate Pentecost.

Bring in the Holy Spirit!

As the Spirit fills the house where the Apostles were gathered and drives them out to proclaim the Gospel, all those people of different languages and cultures begin to gather together themselves and listen. They hear the saving message of Christ, animated by the Spirit, and it stirs them to wonder and awe. How is this possible?

In response to the devil, the “Acccuser,” the Slanderer, we receive the “Advocate.” The Holy Spirit is the Paraclete – a Greek word that means “one who stands with and speaks for another.” The Advocate brings to us the life of God, as the Spirit is the “Lord, the Giver of Life.”

As the Spirit is poured into the Church, we become the sign – the sacrament – of the unity that God has intended from the beginning. The work of redemption is now complete!

As we receive the gifts of the Spirit, we all receive unique ones. Paradoxically, the Spirit seems to bring so much diversity of gifts but unity of life. The Holy Father has commented several times about the Holy Spirit bringing all these diverse gifts into harmony. Harmony is the gathering of dissonant sounds into something beautiful for God.

So, as we recognize that we are the recipients of such a great Gift – the Holy Spirit – we cannot look upon this blessing as singular – isolated from the gifts of others. We do not receive the Holy Spirit as a personal possession, or as affirmation of our own consciences – whether they are properly formed or not. If we see it that way, we are falling back into that reign of the devil – of the Scatterer.

Jesus has won the victory over sin and death, over fear and division. We are now constituted as the Body of Christ – united in the Spirit, united in Love. No longer are we alienated from one another or from God. We are reconciled. Our Advocate has come to counter the lies of the Accuser.

The Gathering has begun, and we are part of it as we receive this Holy Spirit. God’s plan cannot be thwarted. That which has been scattered has been gathered once more. Alleluia!

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