By Bishop David McGough
Have you noticed the growing trend for political commentators to describe current affairs in language once used to identify the work of the Holy Spirit? Today's leaders must be charismatic visionaries with theological conviction. They must embrace a diverse society with a single, cohesive purpose.
It is intriguing that a tired world searching to renew itself should describe its aspirations in language that would not have been out of place at the first Pentecost.
The apostles, following the Ascension, were men waiting for inspiration. They had encountered the Risen Lord, but as yet their conviction remained hidden. Pentecost transformed their understanding of themselves and their relationship to the world. The first outpouring of the Holy Spirit was described in remarkable language. Yet more wonderful was the inner transformation accompanying this event. Timid men, hiding behind the closed doors of their own anxieties, now embraced the world with a fresh vision of what the world was and what it could become. As the apostles began to speak, those who listened came to an understanding beyond differences of language and culture. The message of the apostles had been simple. Repentance and forgiveness take us beyond the endless circle of past sin. The power of the Risen Lord is greater than the confusion of our divided world. The Father's power to unite is greater than the alienation that drives us apart. On Pentecost Sunday we remind ourselves
that we, as the Church, are that people described in the Acts of the Apostles. Our faith is not a private engagement with the Lord but a power that can unite and heal our broken world. Recently many local politicians have peddled their vision for the future. The Holy Spirit brings us back to the teaching of Christ, which speaks to the heart of humanity and its destiny. The crowds listened to the Apostles at Pentecost because their message was alive with hope. When we• witness to Christ with conviction. the world begins to listen. The Spirit of Pentecost is not a spirit of timidity. It
bids us to kindle afresh Christ's understanding of the world, to realise that in him we have a vision that speaks to humanity.
In John's Gospel Jesus understood our presence in the world as the continuation of his own ministry. "As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.The Holy Spirit had inaugurated the ministry of Jesus himself at his baptism. In like manner the ministry of his disciples was begun with a Spirit entrusted to them for healing and reconciliation. "Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven." If we remain faithful to the Spirit entrusted to us, we also become signs of forgiveness and healing. How different our world would be if each day began with the determination to resolve rather than deepen our differences.
St Paul, reflecting on our life together in the Church, understood unity as the abiding sign of the Holy Spirit. Sadly, even within our Church, families and parishes, we can allow differences and hurts to drive us apart. All too easily we revert to the chaos preceding Pentecost, becoming a competition of divided and strident voices.