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A Reflection from Father Jennings: The Spirit of God’s Dream for All

by | May 30, 2020

The Spirit of God’s Dream for All

After two months of separation and isolation, finally came a taste of liberation. It is not total, nor is it completely free. There remain many restrictions. However, the barriers constructed to help address the threat of the spreading pandemic are finally coming down. Communities, from families to church are beginning to come together again. There are limits, but we are moving from separation and restrictions to a sense that we are together and free again. It is a taste of liberation.

What we have experienced over the past months is in some ways what our world expresses globally. We are often defined by our borders, that is by what separates us – Canada, US, China, Europe. So often we wrap ourselves in our borders, our differences, our self-interest. Protecting ourselves is most significant. With what result? Often it creates separation, isolation, hostility, negative rivalry and even conflict, among countries, communities and regions. We are bound by borders.

This is not God’s plan, God’s dream for us. Humanity is one and has been created as one. God’s dream is that we come back to unity as one human community. Such a community overcomes our separation, our borders and our divisions. It brings compassion and healing for all, mutual concern and care, a sense that we are indeed one world. It offers reconciliation and peace. It is a taste of liberation.

Pentecost is about the creation of this world, marked by liberation and peace. We see this, in the reading we encounter for this time. These readings focus on the way the Spirit came into the life of the disciples and into the lives of our ancestors in the faith, those earliest communities. The readings present us with clear and eloquent images of the impact of Spirit.

We discover that the Spirit is given broadly, not to a few. It comes to all and marks all. In the Book of the Act (2:1-11) we hear that the Spirit descended on all the disciples and all were filled. More than this, not only did they all speak with the Spirit, but all who heard them heard and understood. Language was no longer a barrier among the many. Pentecost is a reversal of the Old Testament story of Babel when humanity in self-importance and pride sought to build a tower “with its top in the heavens” (Gen.11:1-9). The result was the confusion and separation that came from differences in language. The Spirit overcomes our separateness and division, for we are one human family.

In the First Letter to the Corinthian Community, the writer seems to have grasped this. For the letter proclaims that there are indeed many gifts and many services in the community. But this variety is actually in all of the community, for all of them are gifts and service of the Spirit “for the common good” of all (1 Cor.12:3-7). Despite our differences we are, one humanity.

John describes the disciples on the evening when they became aware that Jesus had risen (John 20:19-23). In fear, they had locked themselves in the house. Separation was their response to their fears. Jesus then came upon them and he greeted them in a significant way: “Peace be with you.” The great gift of the Spirit of Jesus among them was to be peace. Fear causes us to flee, to imprison ourselves to be safe. That is not what the Spirit brings, it brings healing and unity.

With the gift of the Spirit, the disciples were to become healers and reconcilers. We might be tempted to read the word “sin” too narrowly as our individual failings. In the Spirit it is much more. “Sin” refers to all that separates and divides humanity. It is seen when our pride and self-importance lead us to think we dominate and control our world.

The Spirit creates a world that is God’s dream, world of our true hopes. This is really our common dream. A world of liberation and peace for all. May we be one world, one humanity, living and caring for all creation as God cares for us.

John Jennings