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The season of Easter concludes with today's celebration, the feast of Pentecost.  

The Jewish feast of Pentecost called all devout Jews to Jerusalem to celebrate their birth as God’s chosen people in the covenant Law given to Moses on Mt Sinai. The story of Pentecost is found in the Acts of the Apostles, today's first reading. the mysteries prefigured in Jewish feast are now fulfilled in the pouring out of the Spirit on Mary and the Apostles. The Spirit seals the new law and new covenant brought by Jesus, written not on stone tablets as in the days of Moses but on the hearts of believers, as the prophets promised. 

The account in today's Gospel, taken from the Gospel of John, also recounts how Jesus gave the gift of the Holy Spirit to his disciples. There is no need to try to reconcile these two accounts to each other. It is enough to know that, after his death, Jesus fulfilled his promise to send to his disciples a helper, an advocate, who would enable them to be his witnesses throughout the world.

So, in a key passage about the gift of the Holy Spirit in John’s Gospel, Jesus breathes on the disciples and says to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:22-23). 

Jesus was making a claim that was a whole lot more astounding, bewildering and even shocking. Most Jews at the time would have said that there is one (and only one) person who can forgive sins and that person is God. When Jesus had the temerity to say that people’s sins were forgiven, the religious authorities of his day accused him of blasphemy. Who but God can forgive sins? So, when Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit upon his disciples and tells them that they have the authority to forgive sins, we are moving into really scandalous territory. The response to Jesus’ claim should not be a polite, “Thank you for teaching us a way we can achieve emotional healing.” Rather, it should be the almost scandalized astonishment we feel at God’s prerogative to forgive being handed over to sinful human beings. Jesus’ breathing forth the Spirit upon his disciples is not a nice object lesson used to illustrate a bit of self-help. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit to the disciples that transforms them into participants in God’s mission to forgive the sins of the world. And that gives hope to all of us. For we are all called to break down walls in the name of Christ. In our modern struggle in the church to accept all as brothers and sisters as God's beloved children.  

in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, God uses frail, fragile, fallible human beings to forgive sins and to bring about his kingdom of justice and mercy and peace. 

Pentecost is about Breaking Down the Walls in the Name of Christ.

The spirit of Pentecost wants us to...
tear down the walls that society has built.
Tear down the political, social, economic, religious, racial, ethnic and sexist walls

At Jesus’ baptism, the heavens were torn asunder and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in the form of a dove. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit filled the upper room with the roar of a great wind, landed on the disciples in tongues of fire, and sent them out into the world to proclaim the good news. In John’s Gospel, the risen Lord breathed the Holy Spirit upon his disciples and gave them God’s power to forgive sins. Now God can get at us anytime God wants. 

For Christ has broken down the walls to include all God's beloved children. All are welcome, all are accepted, all are included.


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