Friday, 25 May 2012

As the Father sends me

GospelJohn 20:19-23 

Feast of Pentecost

In the evening of the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.
‘As the Father sent me,
so am I sending you.’
After saying this he breathed on them and said:
‘Receive the Holy Spirit.
For those whose sins you forgive,
they are forgiven;
for those whose sins you retain,
they are retained.’

The feast of Pentecost is most clearly recognised by the 
reading from Acts - the 'Gospel' of the Holy Spirit - 
it almost feels that that reading would have been enough; 
more than enough given the drama of the 
Holy Spirit's entrance.

 By itself, it could be imagined that this is a whole new shift in God's plan.  That Jesus, having taken his journey to the limit; a journey that led to the hill of sacrifice,  has now reaped his own reward and returns to the Father. The disciples feeling abandoned and hide under the tables in fear of their lives until the flames of the Holy Spirit set them on fire.

It could feel that the Holy Spirit has arrived with a whole new game plan - Jesus was always a little too human - now here's the return to the insistent mystery of the Divine. It could seem that there is some rite of succession taking place as another aspect of God takes on the responsibility of humanity.

The two readings taken together show that this is far from true. The Holy Spirit is not a nanny left by an exasperated teacher - it was surely always the intention that there would be a way for Jesus' influence to remain without his humanity being comprised. Even if Jesus had reached his three score and ten there would have always been the risk that faith would not be stronger than death. There had to be another way and, as dramatic as the Upper Room is, it doesn't happen all at once - the Trinity leaves its mark.

At the climax of the crucifixion, Jesus gives his Spirit into the Father's keeping. His essence; the part of each and every one of us that is a seed of the Divine having lived and grown in the fullness of his life, is given away in total surrender.  This giving is an act of will; the last act of will of the historical Jesus.

Just before this final emptying Jesus uses his last 
breaths to begin the transformation of his followers. 
He breathes on the few who have accompanied him 
to the cross. Knowing the 'Yes' of his mother is for all 
time the passing of his 'children' into her keeping is 
fulfilled perhaps without no more than a blink of a 
tear-filled eye. The bequest asks more of the disciple 
and so of us;  to make room in our lives for Mary
 so that the Mother of God becomes our mother. 
The reconciliation of the children to the Father is underway.

This visitation moves the relationship further - his breath is a kiss of life - a whisper of truth -   to get past the fear phase they need a catalyst; they need an energy source that is outside themselves - they need Jesus' Spirit.

Jesus gives the disciples and us, the 'one thing' the tipping point for transformation - the forgiveness of sins. Why? Because sin is the only thing that keeps us from Father; it is the cause of our amnesia; our denial. It is not God but our own rejection of who we are that leaves us swineherds instead of racing home as beloved sons and daughters.

 Jesus' birth, life, death and resurrection- is given to us as a re-membering; a putting back together of the knowledge of who we are; all in the microcosm of one Godperson - Jesus - human and Divine. We are meant firstly to know the Father's love as Jesus does; it is only with this love  that we can love God back; that we can ever hope to love each other.

Jesus tells us we are in him and he is in the Father - what does that say other than we are already living our eternal life? Written on the Father's hand since the beginning; the divine spark of each and every one of us made incarnate by the 'yes' of a woman's body, moulded in the water and clay of Creation. The ending of this life a metamorphosis into a resurrection that we have not yet seen except through our brother's promise. Jesus is the first but not the last. 

The realisation of who Jesus was came to him through the midwifery of the Holy Spirit when She drove Jesus  into the heat of the desert for his re-birthing. The disciples, gathered together within his arms are treated more tenderly by the Spirit but the mission is no different. The Will of the Father; let all division cease; let Thy Kingdom come.



claire said...

The midwifery of the Spirit... How much I like these words, Mairie...
I have a hunch She will send to the desert anyone today who's game :-)
Thank you for a great reflection.

Word in the Hand said...

:-) Claire