By Bishop Peter Stasiuk.
The church was born on Pentecost Sunday! On that day the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles, disciples, and all others gathered.
In our tradition this day is known as the day of light, a day of life or a day of hope. We should reflect on the apostles and the others present when the tongues descended on those gathered. To put it mildly, the group was a very interesting lot, on first glance, you would not pin your hopes on them as candidates for building the church, or who would take the message of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth. They were disunited, scared, those lacking in confidence and generally ones whom you would have to question about their faith in Jesus.
At one time they had much faith and hope in Jesus, in his Kingdom and their own place in it. They had heard Jesus’ preaching. They saw the miracles, but they also experienced Good Friday. They had denied him, had run away, hid because they were afraid of the local population because they believed they would harm them, and most certainly laugh at them. Yet Jesus did rise from the dead, and came to them through locked doors because they were hiding. He introduced himself by saying “Peace be with you.” He continued to instruct them. He rebuilt their faith. But then he left them alone again. He ascended into heaven, but he promised them the Holy Spirit. At Pentecost we celebrate the fulfilment of that promise.
We join with St Paul when he says “The life I live now is not my own, Christ is living in me. I still live my human life, but it is a life of faith in the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. I will not treat God’s gracious gift as pointless.” (Gal 2: 20 – 21)
Just as what happened to the demoralised apostles, the Holy Spirit takes over my life, my faith, my future. I belong to Jesus and in him I am confident and strong.
Pentecost is the birthday of the church, our church. There are signs all over the place that Jesus is our soul, he is our life and future. We will not be lost, but will be saved and live with him in eternity.
In our Ukrainian Church, in our parishes, we too are a little puzzled and confused, and worry about the future. There are signs of hostility from the world. Many have gone astray, others are not confident enough to call themselves Christians, or Catholics, or Ukrainian Catholics. They might just want to be plain and simple, typical Australians, that happen to have a Ukrainian background.
The stalwarts of the church, the older generation are slowly passing on. Young people show little interest in that which was handed to them. We all might be tempted to ask: what is our future? What is the future of our parish or the church? You might be tempted to say that, but we do celebrate Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit. We are inspired. We have hope!
A new vocation, a new ordination, is a certain sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit. We have new strength, new talent, and new forces. The Holy Spirit wants our church and community to live. Just as in the early church, while life was not easy, so with us, we know the problems, but we have a renewed faith: a faith that the Holy Spirit is present. What we ourselves cannot do, the Holy Spirit does! Because God loves us personally and collectively as a church.
The Holy Spirit has gifts to offer. St Paul (Gal 5:22 – 23) tells us about them. They are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These gifts overcome the world and the difficulties we have. The scriptures (Gal 5:20 – 21) tell us that the world presents us with immorality, impurity, idolatry, sorcery, strife, drunkenness, carousing, envy, jealousy, anger, selfishness, and dissention. It is almost as if St Paul picked up this morning’s newspaper and told us what he read. The Holy Spirit overcomes all these. The Holy Spirit is here, it is ours. We must give ourselves over to the will of God. And work with him to build His church and Kingdom.
Let us rejoice, have hope and faith, and open our hearts to God.