This Sunday we celebrate the feast of Pentecost, the official birthday of the Church. Fifty days after Jesus’ Resurrection, the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples, giving them the power and the courage to preach the Good News to all the world.
Before they received the Holy Spirit, the disciples were timid and fearful, hiding behind locked doors. (Kind of like we’ve been doing the past three months because of the coronavirus pandemic.)
But at Pentecost the Spirit transformed them into fearless and powerful witnesses of the Gospel. They changed from Sheldon Coopers into Jason Bournes overnight. In the blink of an eye they went from wimps to warriors, from chickens to champions.
A lot of folks think that only a few specially-chosen people can be filled with the Holy Spirit and do great deeds for the Kingdom of God. However, the fact is, EVERYONE has a special gift and is called to use it to promote the Gospel. The job of promoting the Kingdom of God is not only for people like the two most amazing religious figures during my lifetime, Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa. This important job is for everybody.
There is one Holy Spirit who empowers believers to do God’s will. But this one Spirit gives different gifts to different people. Some, like Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa, were blessed with the tenderness and tenacity to draw millions of people into a closer relationship with Jesus. Others, like Larry Luggnut and Shirley Schlepp, are only able to offer smiles to anxious strangers who decided to attend church for the first time in years.
Some were international celebrities, while others are complete unknowns. In God’s eyes they are all equal since they each used the particular gift given to them by the Spirit.
This highlights one of the interesting (and liberating) aspects of God: He doesn’t judge by human standards. We humans love to do side-by-side, quantitative comparisons, to determine who is “more successful.” But God doesn’t do it that way. He is more concerned about whether we are fully utilizing whatever spiritual gifts we have been given.
In God’s eyes, if Larry Luggnuts or Shirley Schlepps are only capable of making strangers feel welcome with a sincere smile, and consistently do it each Sunday, then they are more successful than other folks who possess great talents but only use them occasionally.
St. Paul compared God’s church with a human body. “As a body is one though it has many parts,” he wrote, “and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.”
The body of Christ is made up of all its members, not just famous clergy and nuns and best-selling authors. Every member is vitally important and is meant to serve an important function.
With our bodies, some parts are more celebrated and noticeable—the face, the brain, the hands. Other parts toil in anonymity—the ankles, the liver, the large intestine. But if the ankles, liver, or large intestine suddenly stopped working, the whole body would be in a heap of trouble.
Within the body of Christ, some members are more celebrated and noticeable. Most other members of the body of Christ, however, must toil in virtual secrecy. All the unknown Larry Luggnuts and Shirley Schlepps will never have future generations demand they be canonized as saints. But we are all key parts of the body of Christ. If we don’t do our job, the whole body is in trouble.
With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can confidently go forth and do what we are called to do, and in the process, we’ll be filled with love and joy and peace.