12 June 2011
My dear friends,
Douglas Hyde was a well-known scholar and Irishman. A lapsed Catholic, he wrote a book entitled “Dedication and Leadership” in which he recalled how, when he joined the Communist Party in the early 1940’s, he was sent to sell the communist newspaper ‘The Daily Worker’ on the street corners of Liverpool. “Here I was” he recalled “endangering my life for a cause I had learned to believe in, whereas when I was a Catholic I had never been asked to do more than move the chairs in the Community Centre for “Father”! In the Gospel today the apostles, relatively new recruits, are told by Jesus “As the Father has sent me so am I sending you.” They are given an even tougher assignment than the communists of Douglas Hyde’s time.
Jesus had come to redeem the world in his life and death. He had come with a message for all people and now he had returned to his Father. He relied on the infant Church to spread his message. The Church was to be a tongue to spread the message, feet to carry it to all corners and hands to do the accompanying work. Today, that responsibility is ours, yours and mine. The Gospel of repentance, forgiveness and love may never be heard unless we are willing to bring it to the market place. Jesus has assured us that we will not be on our own. God’s grace and power will be with us in the Spirit.
After Pentecost the apostles were changed people. That does not necessarily mean that the change came about in an instant. It was more likely to have been a process of growth animated by the Holy Spirit. Spring did not come in an instant. The countryside took on a new life over a period of weeks alongside some spectacular overnight changes. The new life comes from within, spring awakens and calls forth; it facilitates the marvellous growth which is taking place. The Holy Spirit awakens us to the power within us and empowers us to grow. God enables what happened to the Apostles at Pentecost to happen to us too.
In a speech delivered before more than a quarter of a million people gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. in 1963 Martin Lutter King Jr. addressed people who had come from all over the United States with all their differing experiences: “I have a dream”, he said, “that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together…….that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice….. all of God’s children, black man and white man, Jew and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholic will be able to join hands and sing…….”
What happened that long ago Pentecost Day in Jerusalem was the beginning of a process that continues to this day. Jesus lived, suffered, died and rose to life, returned to the Father and sent forth his saving Spirit to live with and within his followers forever. The same Spirit who empowered Jesus continued to empower the community of his followers. That same Spirit continues to blow and breathe on us as freely and as powerfully as when the Spirit’s presence was first sent among us. We are empowered by the Spirit’s gift of understanding to be brothers and sisters to one another. Each generation has both the privilege and the responsibility to acknowledge and accept the gift of the Spirit so that the peace and forgiveness brought by Jesus are made available to all.
+Liam S. MacDaid
Bishop of Clogher
12 June 2011