Many remember hurricane Katrina, especially because of how destructive it was. Recently, there have been tornadoes in the Midwest, leveling houses so that they appeared as brittle as match sticks. And then, there were the tsunamis. I suppose that we have never become so aware of the power of nature until we have seen its destructiveness.
However, in addition to being destructive, power can be constructive as well. We see it in the love of a parent who will risk even death for a child. On the feast of Pentecost, the readings (Acts 2:1-11 and John 20:19-23) tell us something of the power of love and dedication. What kind of power is that of which we speak? Namely, the power of the Holy Spirit. What does that mean?
We can get some background from the Old Testament. The opening verses of Genesis (Genesis 1:1-2) begin to tell the story of the creation of the world. The key phrase is “…while a wind (RUAH) from God swept over the face of the waters.” The wind (RUAH) is better translated as the “power” of God which soon came to mean the Holy Spirit. In the creation account, we see the power of God as being creative.
A second example from the Old Testament is taken from Judges 6:34, the calling of Gideon. “But the spirit (RUAH) of the Lord took possession of Gideon…” This possession of Gideon by the spirit of t he Lord made it possible for him to conquer the Midianites. This spirit of the Lord gave Gideon the wherewithal to conquer. This was power.
In the first reading from the Pentecost liturgy (Acts 2:1-11), the close disciples of Jesus were together. “And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind (see Gen. 1:1) and filled the entire room.” This was a display of God’s power.
Two verses later, “The disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and they began to speak in other languages as the Spirit gave them ability.” The disciples spoke in order to be understood. This was another example of the power of God. The disciples were motivated to preach Jesus to the world, and the world understood.
In the Gospel (John 20:19-23), Jesus commissions the disciples to continue his ministry of justice, compassion, forgiveness, and understanding. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” But how does Jesus commission them? In the next verse we read “…when he had said this, he breathed on them and said ‘Receive the Holy Spirit…” (John 20:22) Jesus commissioned his disciples by giving them the Holy Spirit in ordr to continue his ministry on earth.
What can we learn from these readings? First of all, when the disciples received the Holy Spirit, they spoke to the people in order to be understood. We receive the Holy Spirit at Baptism, and when we proclaim the message of Jesus it is to be understood, namely, by means of patience, compassion, understanding, and by the clarity of the message proclaimed.
Secondly, we must truly begin to appreciate our Baptism and what it does for us. Not only do we bec0me children of God with great responsibilities, but we also receive the Holy Spirit, the “creative power of God” which enables us to do many things in order to properly proclaim the message of Jesus. Reflecting seriously on our Baptism takes us along on the road to power.