Scripture reflections – Sunday, May 27th, 2012

Acts 2:1-11; 1 Cor 12:13b-7, 12-13; Jn 20: 19-23

Feast of Pentecost

Imagine this.  You are holding a clear plastic container of blueberries all nestled comfortably together.   This is not a bad image of the pre-Vatican II Church in America.  The boundaries defining who was in the Church and who was not were clearly defined.  For many Catholic Americans, most particularly first generation immigrant Americans, the parish was not only the center of worship but the center of life in general.  People identified themselves not as citizens of a particular city or neighborhood, but as members of a specific parish.

Now in your imagination – unless you have a broom and dustpan handy – open that clear plastic container of blueberries and scatter them on the floor.  This is a pretty good image of the post-Vatican II Church in America.  We’re all over the place now, with the lines between “churched” and “unchurched” very hard to draw.   And even for those most active in their parishes, the demands and opportunities of modern life are such that the parish is only one of several centers around which their lives revolve.

That this analogy captures at least the feelings of most American Catholics today I think is not really in dispute.  Here’s the question that we are struggling with as a Church, the question that causes the deepest divisions in the Church today:

Was the “spilling of the blueberries” an act of the Holy Spirit or of the devil?

This Sunday’s reading from Acts provides us with an important insight we might use in answering that question:  “At this sound (of the apostles leaving the upper room and beginning to shout deliriously under the influence of the Holy Spirit) they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language.”

For me, the celebration of Pentecost is a celebration of the spilling of the blueberries – in this case, the apostles – from the locked upper room that was their container into the world.   Of course there was confusion – how could there not be given such a monumental outreach of the Spirit – but that spilling out into the crowded Jerusalem meeting place created enormous opportunities to proclaim the gospel to the world.   And the world would never be the same.

Here’s my suggestion:  Imagine that the Person who overturned that container of blueberries was the Holy Spirit.   How does that mess on the floor look now?

Jim Philipps (3rdmillennium pilgrim)

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