“That’s the spirit!” “That team has spirit!” “You’ve got to get into the spirit of the season.” We use the word spirit all the time. Contains many levels of meaning. At Pentecost there is only one meaning—the Holy Spirit.
Today we celebrate the birthday of the Church. She was born on a Sunday night behind closed doors. The first members were fearful, that’s why the doors were locked. Fear sells insurance, alarms, live video doorbells. We like to protect ourselves against predators. We spend a lot of energy worried about the predators that can harm us physically and we neglect the predators that can harm our soul. For example, yes, the doors are locked to our homes, but countless children watch unsupervised rubbish on their cellphones. Husbands and wives refuse to speak to each other because they are angry. Young adults are living with their significant other without the Sacrament of Marriage. The predator has indeed invaded our homes. The locks and the chains make no difference because we have lowered our guard where we most need to be concerned. Obviously, we are paying attention to the wrong things. The old axiom has become a reality, “the devil is in disguise”. Truth is that he might be retired since the internet is doing all his work. Don’t misunderstand. The media is a great source of communication and we certainly do not want to go backwards. However, the media can do a lot of damage when used irresponsibly. The greatest predator is evil who desires to separate us from God. Self-doubt, lack of self-worth and disregard for the sacredness of human life is where he hits us the hardest.
Consider the rise in suicides, especially among young people. Countries that are on the brink of war, ready to push a button, which will annihilate half the planet, all in the name of freedom. What the stock market does is given more importance than the number of people that are hungry. Whom to blame? Who is responsible for the chaos? The folks on the other side of the ocean. The neo-Nazis. The undocumented immigrants. Somebody or something has crept into our peaceful life and upset the applecart! Look again. Evil has been around for a long time. The first death recorded in the Bible was not by natural causes. Cain killed his brother Able because he was jealous of him. To this day families are separated because of jealousy. History repeats itself and we do not seem to learn from our mistakes. Locked doors have not prevented violence in our homes.
The Holy Spirit is the only One who can help us to stop the madness. Once the Apostles got over their fear, they were ready to give their lives for the message of forgiveness. “Peace be with you”, Jesus said to them—twice. They could not hear Him, they were overwhelmed with guilt, with fear, with their denial of Christ. Knowing exactly who they were, what they had done and failed to do—Jesus chose them again. He commissioned them by bestowing the gifts of the Spirit. After the Apostles allowed themselves to hear the healing words of forgiveness, they forgave themselves, forgave each other and through the priesthood and the Church—forgiveness continues to be our greatest weapon against the predator. Jesus gave us tremendous power. We can forgive, or we can choose not to forgive. If we want the Lord to forgive us, then we must forgive each other, beginning with the ones who have hurt us the most. The ones who can hurt us the most are the ones we love the most. Therein lies the biggest challenge—are we willing to let go of the past? Can we let bygones be bygones? We cannot change the past. But we can only learn and try not to repeat unhealthy behavior.
Forget about locking the doors. Worry more about unlocking our heart. We need to be open in order to hear Jesus say to us, “Peace be with you.”