The Ocean of His Love
The Ocean of His Love

The Ocean of His Love

The Solemnity of Pentecost. Fr Dermot Morrin preaches on the one single mystery of Christ.

The disciples feel his breath and hear him say, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’. It is their first encounter with the Risen Jesus on evening of the first day of the week. In Luke’s Acts of the Apostles the Holy Spirit is not bestowed until the Feast of Pentecost some 50 days later and in a very different manner. But both John and Luke describe the same truth of our faith, that the Holy Spirit is given to each of us and that he stands beside us and among us to bringing us to growth in holiness and fruitfulness.

Beside us, among us and within us is the great mystery of the Word made flesh, who gave himself for us. He entered into death, so that we might live to him. Although in the celebration of the liturgy it might seem as if there were several mysteries, one after another, all these events are but one mystery: Jesus, who is the Word made flesh, before whom we kneel and by whom we are raised to our feet. The mystery of the Word is already there in the bounty and beauty of God’s creation. At once, like a swollen river and a gentle stream, in the Risen Jesus, God’s love flows towards us, so that the Holy Spirit is awash in our hearts and we are made swimmers in the vast ocean of his love.

Pentecost, as a Jewish Feast, has its roots in the time of harvest. At the time of harvest, the people would offer back to God the first fruits of the bounty they had received from him. Gratitude was at the heart of it. But actually this ancient offering prefigured Christ, who is the first fruits of a harvest which enfolds all times and seasons. He is once and for all our atoning sacrifice, our praise and our thanksgiving.

Is it significant that in this gospel scene from John no individual disciple is named? The place is not named either. It is simply where the disciples are, for Christ is present among all his disciples wherever they are. When he breathes on them, there is an echo of the account the creation of Adam in Genesis, when God formed him from the dust of the earth and breathed life into him. And maybe there is a suggestion of this too in Luke’s account which mentions a sound from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind. The Greek word for Spirit might also mean a breeze or a breath,, and certainly to breathe is to live. Through him we were made, and now through him again we are being remade. To breathe in God’s Spirit-filled breath is to live indeed. It is to step into the peace he has bestowed already. From this time of Pentecost, in the northern hemisphere when the days become warmer, I like to walk bare foot on a beach and get my feet wet. I love to feel the cold northern water as it ebbs and flows around my feet in the sand on the shore of the sea. Knowing his peace is something like getting your feet wet on the shore of the vast ocean of his love.

But in this account from John, with the gift of the Spirit comes the forgiveness of sins and the mission. I notice that in John, the mission of Jesus begins not with the call to our repentance as in Matthew, Mark and Luke, but with the Baptist’s cry, ‘Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’, reminding us that if we as his body bestow forgiveness of sins, it is only possible through Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. Again, this is the great mystery. This is the dignity he bestows upon us.

Jesus showed them his hands and his side. The wounds must have spoken of everything they feared, of the way they knew the world to be, a place of betrayal, brutality, injustice, suffering and death. These disciples know that they themselves are part of that world. But those same wounds speak also of his love, his faithfulness, his goodness, and his love. St Catherine of Siena said, ‘You have made a cavern in your open side where we might find a refuge.’ The disciples are moved from fear to gladness. His wounds are real but they are to be seen now in the light of God’s love. Sin is real too, but no less so than the forgiveness of sins. Forgiveness of sins is as basic to the life we now live together as breathing is to the life of our bodies. Forgiveness opens up a future that we would otherwise close. This is the depth and richness of the harvest of which he spoke so often in the parables. This is the fullness of life which he speaks to us by his living breath.

Readings: Acts 2:1-11 | Galatians 5:16-25 | John 15:26-27,16:12-15

fr. Dermot Morrin is Superior in the house of St Albert the Great in Edinburgh.

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