Are we using our Spiritual gifts for the Common Good of all?
Acts 2: 1-11; 1 Corinthians 12: 3-7, 12-13; John 20: 19-23
I wonder how many of us can remember choosing a Confirmation name and sponsor. Why did we pick the person we asked? I know for me my confirmation name is Sebastian whose name was my godfather. My uncle Sebastian was a great person. He was a man of deep faith and a hardworking man who cared for his family and loved to serve the Lord. Not having a father figure in my life growing up my uncle Sebby, as he was fondly called, was an excellent role model of strength yet gentleness. He was neither afraid of his anger nor afraid to cry when emotional. When we were asked to choose a sponsor and take a name of a person it was not supposed to be at random or rushed but was supposed to be someone as an adolescent we had wanted to become like.
Pentecost is the moment on the Christian faith community that Jesus before returning to the Divine breathed new life into the disciples and followers giving them a transformative power within themselves and to be used for others. Just as the Divine breathed life into the first human creation so too Jesus breaths on the followers. This new life that Jesus gave was for the forgiveness of sins. Sin in the ancient world was not tied to action but the essence of why people do what they do. Sin is the power and force behind the action. Sin is the thought and feeling which leads to the act it is intention. The idea of sin in Jesus' time which then developed in our time as actions are really something we need to reflect on in our world today.
The breadth of the new life which Jesus gave to the disciples and in turn to others through the sacraments often leads not only to an inner personal relationship with the Divine and a transformation of our mind and hearts but we also begin to recognize our special and unique gift. The second reading speaks of some of the gifts which we can develop or received but we must remember that these gifts are not just for me or you alone but of the betterment of the community. To know you have a gift from the Divine and not use it for others is to waste the gift. The Corinthian community, not unlike our communities of faith, struggled with seeing the gifts over the one who gave them. The Corinthians community lost sight that the main focus for the community and the gifts was Christ. It was Jesus who came and loved all people and who was crucified for his beliefs. Paul reminds the community that if we are not willing to sacrifice and for some even die for their faith all the gifts in the world are useless.
The gift of the Spirit which is celebrated at Pentecost and Confirmation is the acknowledgment that we have the Divine’s life within us and we are called to use our gifts individually and communally for the common good. The common good sees all as equal and it does not differentiate between race, ethnicity, lifestyle, or any other wall or barrier we create it sees all as unique but equal. Sharing our gifts with others breaks down the walls of hatred, prejudice, and racism. The gifts of the Spirit are given to eradicate fear, anger, and hatred and are used for unification not only of the Christian community but of the world. Why do we have racism, hatred, and fear in our world and country? The answer is because we the people of faith called to bring about the Kingdom of the Divine are not living up to our vocation of sharing our gifts. If we as people of faith maintain that I or we will only share with those who are “worthy” then we are abusing our gifts. Jesus sent the followers out to the whole world, not just a selective few.
The peace which Jesus imposed on the disciples was not a passive peace but one that calls us to action against injustice. How? Once again we must stand up for anything and anyone in our world that feels unloved is marginalized, is separated, and is prejudiced against. Jesus died for what he believed and it would have been easier for him to pick up a sword and join the Zealots and fight against the Romans and the Religious party of his time. No Jesus chose as so many in our day and age Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Oscar Romero, and Dorothy Day, who used their words and actions for peace in a non-violent way. I know many feel that the people protesting have a right to destroy property but we as Christian have to say with our ancestors and Jesus that is wrong. Protest yes and use our actions of giving, forming community, and speaking out for injustice these are the weapons of those who follow Jesus and who have been used as a model for many historic figures that fought for peace.
I choose my uncle Sebby because at that time I did not have a personal relationship with Jesus and needed someone else to show me the way. Today I and Jesus and the Divine are one and while I pray for and to my uncle I no longer need his example for I have my own. I can only hope that my example is one of Jesus’ love, hope, and unity as I use my gifts and voice for the common good.
Let us pray for ourselves that we come in touch with our special Spirit gift and use it for all people. Let us pray for an end to racism in all forms and an end to violence in all forms. If we want a better world it will come by all of us using our unique spiritual gifts for the good of all, not just those we feel are “worthy”.