It’s not by chance that the words “Peace” and “Forgive” are spoken by the Lord in the first appearance of Jesus to the Disciples in the room where they held their last meal before all that bad stuff happened to him. When they left after dinner that night to head out to the Garden of Gethsemane, they were pretty clueless as to how that night gathering of prayer and the inability to stay awake with Jesus was going to finish. One thing led to another after Judas arrived with the torch bearers, offering a false and phony kiss, leading to the other 11 scattering to the four winds in their fright and fear of being arrested along with Jesus.
So, when they see him next, a few days later, after much anxiety, after many evil things have happened to the Son of God, the appearance is filled with indescribable joy, led by the words ‘Peace” and “Forgive.” “Peace be with you,” and “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them.”
That first phrase of Jesus is very easy to understand. And easy to accept. “Peace be with you.” He desires our peace, and we want peace. We want peace in our personal lives, our families, our cities, our nation and our world. We’re not warmongers. We hate war. Most of us. Jesus desires our peace. Our peace of mind. Peace of heart. Our peace of body and soul. Peace in ways where we can believe in him and live out our faith in him despite the interference and numerous interruptions of the world.
But the truth is there’s always something interrupting our peace. Jesus tells his disciples elsewhere in Scripture that in the world you will have trouble. This world, this life, will always be fraught with certain types of trouble. As long as death is a possibility, there will always be trouble. This will not end until Jesus returns. Which is why the word “Forgive” must accompany the word “Peace.” Peace without forgiveness is a false sense of peace. Peace without forgiveness is some human concept of peace, absent the peace Christ desires and gives to us. So, don’t ever think you can have peace in your life without the will or capacity to forgive.
What does all this have to do with Pentecost, the coming of the Spirit, the birthday of the Church? A couple thoughts to share.
First, in today’s reading from Acts, we heard proclaimed this familiar scene of the disciples, once again, gathered together in the same room, where the Spirit enters like a rushing wind, and fills them with full knowledge of Christ. All those things that Jesus said and did in his public ministry, the Spirit now gives them full knowledge of. Wouldn’t we like to know and understand everything that Jesus said and did in his public ministry? How great would that be for our confidence as Christians, in a world where even longtime Catholics are losing it every day.
This is the Spirit Jesus promised to send them. The promise is being fulfilled. The same Spirit present right now, promised to us. There’s only one true Spirit, and that’s the Holy Spirit. Any spirits in our world not connected to the love and goodness of the Holy Spirit, are spirits of evil. Always be mindful of what sort of spirit we look for. There are many folks lost today because they search for spirits outside of the Holy Spirit. They play with the wrong kind of fire. As Christians, we always want to be burned, scorched, touched and led by the love and goodness of the Holy Spirit.
In this amazing scene that penetrates their lives, “Peace” and “Forgive” are revealed in language. This reading reveals to us the importance of language, and speaking words as connected to our faith in Christ. What does it take for us to speak? It takes breath. It takes wind. If there’s no wind in the pipes, there will be no voice. What is the Spirit? The Spirit is breath and wind. Our voices are meant to be the Spirit of God speaking through us.
So, to connect the Gospel message to this reading in Acts, the language we share, the words we speak, are to be words of peace and forgiveness. If we’re not speaking peace, whether it’s with immigrants, or the poor, or the sick people who burden our lives, if we’re not speaking or seeking peace with those faces of Christ, the ones that challenge us the most, then we’re speaking outside the love and goodness of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost is not about invisible wind. Pentecost is about the faces of the people we encounter, and how we think and speak about them.
And second, the upside of the Spirit of Pentecost is seen in today’s 2nd reading from 1st Corinthians: “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.” We’re touched by the Spirit. Every time we receive the Eucharist, we’re intimately touched by the Spirit, for some benefit. The benefit is realized when we become what we receive, and share our reception of the Eucharist with others, especially others in need.
In the context of this holy celebration of Pentecost, the benefits are understood as bringing peace to others, and not mini-wars, and extending forgiveness where needed. Those are the benefits God has lovingly extended to us through the life of his Son. Before Jesus, there was no ultimate peace, and there was no redemption for the forgiveness of our sins. What great benefits we’ve been given freely. At no cost to us.
So, it’s not coincidental that our Lord’s first message in his first appearance after the resurrection is one of peace and forgiveness. Without those two virtues, the Disciples would have failed in their mission of spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. Their GPA would have been 0.0. Without those two virtues, we will fail also. The breath of the Holy Spirit invites us into the power and effect of these world-changing virtues.
Pentecost makes the words “Peace” and “Forgive” our own, placing them at the heart of our lives, offering them to those we encounter.