The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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May 25, 2001 Issue
Fr. Ver Bust's Column:
"Explaining the Gospel"

Fr. Richard Ver Bust
Fr. Richard Ver Bust

Announce the news of God's Kingdom

The coming of the spirit takes away fear and gives the gift of peace

June 3, Pentecost

By Fr. Richard Ver Bust

Fifty days ago we celebrated the resurrection of the Lord. We heard how Jesus appeared to his disciples so that they may know that God had vindicated him and his message. His appearances showed a Jesus who had changed, not resuscitated but raised to a new life. He challenged his disciples to believe in him.

Today on the great Feast of Pentecost, amid stories of strong winds and fiery tongues, we hear how the Church was born. The coming of the Spirit, told in dramatic fashion, as Jesus had promised, changed the disciples. They went forth and preached that Jesus had been raised from the dead. They saw the coming of the Spirit as the beginning of a new age.

Actually there are two stories of the coming of the Spirit. The dramatic one is told in the Acts of the Apostles in which Luke, using picture words, tells us what had happened. In the reverse of the story of the tower of Babel, now all people heard and understood one language. The Spirit who by wind had created the heavens and the earth now created something new. In the mind of Luke and in the words of Peter, the thoughts of the prophet Joel had been fulfilled. The Spirit entered the hearts and minds of the disciples and they proclaimed the great deeds of God. This meant the saving actions of God in the history of Israel as well as in the life of Jesus. The Kingdom of God was being born.

The responsorial psalm is a request that God sends forth the Spirit that the whole earth might be renewed. The psalm itself, 104, blesses God for the greatness of the gift of the earth itself. The psalmist believes and prays that God will not only continue to sustain the earth but make it new. Thus the whole earth will give glory to God.

Paul tells us, in his First Letter to the Corinthians, of the power of the Spirit. This power led him to preach the message of Jesus in many lands. He knows that the Corinthians had also experienced the power of the Spirit. He reminds them that even though each of them might possess different gifts of the Spirit, it is the same Spirit. The role of the Spirit and the role of the gifts are for the building of the body of Christ the Church.

The fact that we have a sequence tells us that this is an important day. It is a prayer of the people of God that Spirit may continue to touch our lives. That Spirit's coming is not just for personal sanctification for we pray that the Spirit will change us. We pray that just as the apostles were inflamed to go forth so we too might continue their mission.

Finally, the Gospel gives us a quiet version of the coming of the Spirit. It is John's story of how Jesus, on the night of the resurrection, came to his disciples, breathed upon them and prayed that the Spirit would enter them. John saw this coming of the Spirit as taking away the disciples' fear and giving them the great gift of peace. He also saw the coming of the Spirit as the means by which the forgiveness of sin and reconciliation with God would take place.

Today we bring to a conclusion the Easter season. It has been a time of rejoicing. Yet while it is an ending it is also a beginning. Today and during the rest of the Church year we know that it is our task to continue to announce the news of the Kingdom of God. We do so by how we live.

Yet we do not do it alone for we too like the disciples on that first Pentecost continue to be filled with the Spirit.

(Fr. Ver Bust holds the title of professor emeritus in religious studies at St. Norbert College, De Pere.)

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