This weekend, the church celebrates the feast of Pentecost, the day in which many denominations celebrate the birth of the Christian church. It’s marked by the fulfillment of Christ’s promise of the arrival of the Holy Spirit, sent amongst the apostles to renew the face of the earth through spreading the good news.
Throughout most of Lent and the Easter season, I’ve been pondering these questions: What can I do to help renew the face of the earth? How can I advance the good news of Jesus’s message of salvation for all?
One late April morning, the Holy Spirit answered my questions of how I could contribute to advancing God’s kingdom using my own gifts. The arguments for the Obergefell v. Hodges case had just concluded earlier that week and there had been no references in the priest’s homily that morning for the need for society or the Supreme Court to embrace the “traditional definition of marriage,” so I thought I was in the clear from any political commentary for that mass.
However, when the priest began saying the general intercessions, he offered a prayer for the Supreme Court to uphold the definition of marriage as intended by God. At first, I was taken aback as I was every time a reference to the marriage equality movement surfaced in mass. After reflecting on the moment, though, I couldn’t help but smile, and I found myself joining in the congregational response: “Lord, hear our prayer.”
For me, marriage as intended by God references God’s solution for the problem of man being alone (Gen 2:18). For heterosexual couples, that mirrors the first human couple Adam and Eve, but for same-sex couples, their “suitable partner” (Gen 2:19) does not fit this model. Marriage, therefore, reflects a commitment to a lifestyle in which two suitable partners-God’s words, not mine!-come together to share their lives with one another.
As I sat down after the general intercessions, I reflected on how my personal spiritual journey had led to me viewing scripture in this way. I had to come to appreciate the scholarly, historic, and contextual way in which God’s word revealed itself to me, allowing me to look beyond the face value interpretation of scripture to see the meaning behind God’s message on how we are to develop a relationship with Him and with others.
I thought of the many other affirming Christians that knew in their hearts of God’s love for the LGBT community, but were forced to hear messages of condemnation, intolerance, or fear from their pulpits. At that point, the Holy Spirit revealed a way in which I could be a source of affirmation from a scriptural perspective.
Today’s blog post, therefore, is the first in a series of affirming reflections on scripture readings within the context of the Church liturgical year. It is intended for anyone searching for affirming scriptural meditation. It will always focus on the readings for a Catholic Mass on that particular day and will reflect through a Catholic lens (for the most part) on things such as Mary, the saints, and the sacraments, but my goal is to write these reflections so they can be used by any and all Christians searching for reflective meditations without fear of condemnation of the movements for full LGBT inclusion in Christian churches.
The feast of Pentecost offers several options for readings between the vigil and Sunday Masses. One Old Testament option for the Vigil Mass tells the story of the Tower of Babel, in which God created the many languages of the earth to prevent the builders from stretching their tower all the way to the sky. In the first reading of the Pentecost feast day, the Holy Spirit negates this barrier by allowing the Apostles to share the Gospel with people from all nations, languages, and walks of life.
Another contrast between the story of the Tower of Babel and the story of Pentecost involves perspective relative to location. The builders of the tower sought only to reach God in the heavens. However, the mission of the Apostles upon receiving the Holy Spirit was very clearly an earthly one. God desires for us to seek His presence in others rather than simply looking above.
This is a trap that the Apostles fell into briefly when Jesus ascended into heaven. They found themselves looking up until two angels reminded them of the work they had yet to do here below. Unfortunately, it’s a trap that many today seem to also fall into. It’s easy to spend so much time looking to heaven that we forget about God’s creation here on Earth.
The reading from 1 Corinthians for this feast reminds us that “[t]here are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone” (1 Cor. 12: 4-6).
Today, on this feast of Pentecost, remember that the Holy Spirit has given gifts to you to bring about the realization of God’s kingdom here on Earth. Take some time to reflect on what gifts you have been given and how you can use those gifts to share the good news of Christ with others.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus offers peace to his disciples after his resurrection. It is this very peace that remains at the core of Jesus’s teaching; this is the crux of the message we are to “renew the face of the earth” (Ps 104: 30b) with. May God’s peace and joy be with you as we celebrate the birth of the Church on this feast of Pentecost.
Special thanks to QCROSS @ MSU for posting the pilot blog for this series of reflections. For more articles, be sure to visit Affirming Catholic Reflections at:
Dr. Steven Kandow is an alumus of Michigan State University and is former Vice President of Q-CROSS @ MSU