My key word for today is dynamite. When my brother and I were seven and nine years old, we would frequently visit our grandparents and we would go into the tractor shed and play with sticks of dynamite. They were shaped like Lincoln logs and we stacked them into different configurations. We never got hurt because two things were missing: the blasting caps and the fuses. Grandpa had them in hiding somewhere. He would take them out of hiding when we were in school and use the dynamite to move the boulders that were a problem in his fields.
Dynamite is an action word and when it explodes lots of action takes place. It can move rocks on a farm and remove boulders so that roads can be built through the mountains. Never underestimate the power of dynamite. It is powerful and dynamic.
What the Holy Spirit did on Pentecost Sunday was dynamite! The Spirit was explosive, and it gave the disciples strength. Lots and lots of strength. They had been filled with fear but when the Spirit entered into their hearts they ran into the streets and told everyone about the mighty acts of God.
And their pride was replaced with humility. And their selfishness was replaced with charity. Their hostility was replaced with hospitality. They had been fighting with their neighbors but now they were speaking the languages of their new found friends. Their fears were replaced with courage and their worries about the future were replaced with the virtue of hope. All that happened within a communal setting of their faith community. They had a communal Pentecost. But that is not the whole story. There were those who had a personal Pentecost.
Saint Paul was on the road to Damascus when he had his personal Pentecost. He was persecuting the followers of Christ until the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, forced him to have a change of heart. The Spirit moved him from hostility to hospitality. He moved from persecuting the Christians to welcoming them into his circle of friendship. His conversion was so complete that he became a missionary for the church.
And then we have Saint Peter. Peter was refusing to have table fellowship with gentile Christians. Paul came along and confronted Peter with the teachings of the Holy Spirit. Paul said to Peter, “There is no Jew or Greek in the Body of Christ.” We are all members of the one Body of Christ. The gifts of the Holy Spirit have caused us to belong to the one Body, the Body of Christ. The power of the Holy Spirit pulls us into unity. We are all given to drink of the one Spirit.
At that point Peter saw the error of his ways. The Holy Spirit helped him to see that no Christian is superior to any other Christian. His change of heart was thorough and complete as revealed to us in the following story from Chapter Ten of the Acts of the Apostles.
Cornelius was a Roman centurion who lived in Caesarea. Centurions were chosen to be leaders because they had high ethical standards. Cornelius did not belong to any religion. He was not a Jew and he was not a Christian. But he was always giving food to the poor and he prayed to God every day. He had not heard about Jesus and no one had told him the Good News that Jesus had died on the cross to take away the sins of the world.
One day at three in the afternoon Cornelius had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel who came to him and said, “Cornelius!” Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked. The angel said, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send soldiers to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Simon Peter. When Peter and Cornelius met, Cornelius bowed down to worship Peter. Peter said, “Stand up; I am a human being just like you.”
Peter told Cornelius that God shows no partiality and that anyone who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to Him. Then Peter told Cornelius that Jesus came to save the whole world. While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon Cornelius and upon every person in that room. The Jews who had come with Peter were amazed that even the gentiles could receive the Holy Spirit and be saved.
The sending of the Holy Spirit was extremely powerful. It broke the barriers that separated all people and gave everyone access to God. Peter’s words were like water for the thirsty soul of Cornelius. When Peter explained that baptism was a sign of belief, Cornelius and many gentiles were baptized in the name of Jesus. They were so excited to learn about Jesus that they asked Peter to stay in their town and teach them more about their new faith. And the lesson for us is this: God shows no partiality.
God has created every person that lives on this earth and God is sending the Holy Spirit to every person who seeks him with a sincere heart. On this day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit is explosive, like dynamite. Coming into our hearts and causing dynamic changes. If we cooperate with the working of the Holy Spirit our hostility will be replaced by hospitality, our pride will be replaced by humility, our selfishness will be replaced by charity and our worries about the future will be replaced by the virtue of hope.
We pray now that we will always cooperate with the dynamic power of the Holy Spirit.