April 23, 2020 – Thursday of the 2nd Week of Easter
Click here for the readings (http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/042320.cfm)
The reading that we have heard from the Acts of the Apostles tells us of two different attitudes. We have the attitude showed by Peter and the other apostles and the attitude of the Chief Priest and other religious authorities in Jerusalem. These two groups of people expressed different attitudes towards the gift of the Spirit of God.
We have heard how Peter and his group showed their tremendous confidence to preach about Jesus. Peter who denied Jesus three times and the others who also fled and hid because of fear came out from their hiding places. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit they have been inspired. Though they have failed Jesus and were unfaithful to him at his most difficult moment, yet, these fearful and unfaithful disciples sought forgiveness from Jesus.
Hence, despite their fears and doubts, they allowed the Lord to enter into their lives and to give them peace. This openness from Peter and the rest of his group allowed the Lord to come in, to bring change into their lives and give the peace and joy that the resurrection brings.
Because of this, Peter and his group had become more grateful to God for the tremendous love and faithfulness that they have felt. This gratefulness in their heart moved them to be bold in words and deeds by preaching publicly the life of Jesus.
Fear no longer paralyzes them. It was peace and joy that overwhelmed their hearts because Jesus was with them.
Now, this is a manifestation how the gift of the Spirit transformed those who accepted it wholeheartedly. The gift of the Spirit, as the Gospel of St. John tells us, is not rationed, or limited or controlled as what is happening with the food ration distributed to many communities during this time. In God, there is no pandemic or any virus that can prevent the abundance of the gift of the Spirit.
We might be waiting for our food ration to arrive, but there is this vital gift that is waiting to be received by us. The gift of Easter, this gift of the Spirit that the Gospel tells us is abundantly gifted to us. God does not ration the gift of the Spirit. God gives the Spirit lavishly. Thus, our poverty and not even this pandemic should prevent us from allowing the Lord to fill our hearts with His Spirit. We might be having a financial or economic crisis today, but there should be no excuse of being spiritually destitute these days.
However, what can prevent the gift of Spirit to fill us and to transform our hearts into the likeness of the Risen Christ, is a hardened-heart. This is stronger than the virus and thicker than a concrete wall. As much as God wants every heart to be filled with the gift of the Spirit, but then God does not impose His power on us. God wants a willing and humble heart.
Thus, the other group of people, the high priest and other religious authorities who remained close-minded, insecure and fearful to what Jesus can bring into their lives continued to reject Jesus. This rejection made their hearts stiff, unable to listen to the invitations of the Spirit. This rejection too prevented the Lord to enter into their hearts to bring peace and joy.
Consequently, these people continued to be filled with anger, bitterness, and insecurity. These attitudes towards God made them violent and corrupt. For this reason, they even wanted the apostles to be killed because they wanted to suppress the truth. They wanted to suppress the Gospel of life and of joy.
This too will happen to us when we continually resist God’s invitation for us to be free, to be renewed and to receive his peace and joy, that is, the gift of the Spirit. These authorities had so much possession, they enjoyed wealth, and influence and power to the point that they did not want to move away or let go of those.
We are called now that like the apostles we too will be able to let go of our fears and doubts and of those that whatever may prevent us from truly receiving Jesus in our life and in filling in, our hearts with the gift of the Spirit.
We may ask, “What are those attitudes, beliefs and even tendencies in me that makes my heart stiff and unwilling to receive the gift of the Spirit?”
Hopefully, by being able to let go of those, then, we too shall be filled not by ourselves but by the Spirit who will lead and inspire us to share and preach the Gospel of life and the person of Jesus through our words and actions today. Hinaut pa.
Jom Baring, CSsR