Pentecost Sunday Acts 2: 1-11; 1 Corinthians 12: 3-7 & 12-13; John 20: 19-23
6 1 n 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."
Closed doors figure significantly in St. John's account of those first uncertain days following on from the resurrection. This detail is repeated in the Acts of the Apostles. As Pentecost approached, the followers of Christ were hidden from the world behind the doors of their meeting room. Closed doors are a powerful image of our own experience of life. We long for the freedom to reach out, to live the life that God has given us...but we are fearful. We fear that life will slam the door in our faces, and so we take refuge behind the closed doors of our minds. There is, within all of us, a deep uncertainty of how we will be received both by God and the world in which we live. Better to close the doors than to reveal our vulnerability. We are safe, but with the passage of time we realise that we are going nowhere. The doors that promised safety become our prison.
The Spirit entrusted to the Church at Pentecost opens the doors of our fearfulness. As the apostles waited, locked away in their fears, they experienced a stirring within themselves. The powerful wind that filled the house stirred the uncertainty that had paralysed their hearts. The darkness that had filled their minds dissolved before a light which gave direction to their lives.
A worthy celebration of Pentecost begins with an honest acknowledgment of the fears that have closed so many doors in our lives. We are afraid of rejection, we are afraid of failure, we are afraid of being misunderstood, we are afraid of our past sins. Like the first disciples, we hide behind our fears, and in so doing create our own darkness. To bring such fears to Christ in the trustfulness of prayer, is to open the door to his Spirit of Light and power.
The Spirit of Pentecost enabled the apostles both to understand and to be understood. They began to speak of the love that they had known in Christ and were immediately understood. The divisions which had divided peoples no longer stood in the way. Parthians, Medes and Elamites were no longer conscious of the differences which drove them apart. Now they were united in a single longing expressed in the language of every nation and every heart. The fragmentation of our broken world, the tragedies of Afghanistan and the Middle East to name but two, cry out for this precious gift of understanding. We pray for the gift of the Spirit, not only for ourselves, but for the whole world. Only in the Spirit will we make God's love understandable to broken lives. Only in the Spirit will we understand the cries of a broken world.
John's gospel describes the Spirit that lies at the heart of all understanding. Jesus came amongst his disciples. He breathed into their lives a peace that enables us to be at one with God and at one with ourselves. He breathed into them a Spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation. "Receive the Holy Spirit. For those who sins you forgive, they are forgiven." As we breathe in this Spirit of forgiveness, a forgiveness that is both received and given, doors are opened. As we bring this forgiveness to the world. its pain is healed. Divided peoples understand and are understood.