Sunday 22 February 2015

Pentecost Year B - Mass of the Day

What does it mean to be a Christian? Are we truly united as brothers and sisters in Christ, regardless of our ethnic group, language group, or even social status or background? Sometimes, we come across parishes which are quite divided and segregated along racial and social lines. Each group is more interested only in the affairs, needs and wants of their respective friends and acquaintances within their group. We see people within their group avoiding or minimising contact with people of other groups, due to fear, prejudice, pride, inability to communicate, or for some other reason. Sometimes, when there is a dispute among persons between different groups, we see people taking sides, defending their own group, and finding ways to discredit the other side. It seems as if there is a siege mentality, where the other side is seen as a constant threat that needs to be checked. But is this what being a Christian really all about? Is Christianity exclusive only to certain people?

In today's First Reading, we are told that the Holy Spirit came and rested on the heads of the disciples, "they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak foreign languages as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech" and also that "there were devout men living in Jerusalem from every nation under heaven, and at this sound they all assembled, each one bewildered to hear these men speaking his own language about the marvels of God." Notice that the Holy Spirit did not take sides or focus only with a particular group, but instead broke barriers in language so that all could hear and understand the disciples in their own language.

Likewise, today's alternative Second Reading remind us: "If you are guided by the Spirit you will be in no danger of yielding to self-indulgence, since self-indulgence is the opposite of the Spirit, the Spirit is totally against such a thing, and it is precisely because the two are so opposed that you do not always carry out your good intentions. When self-indulgence is at work the results are obvious: fornication, gross indecency and sexual irresponsibility; idolatry and sorcery; feuds and wrangling, jealousy, bad temper and quarrels; disagreements, factions, envy; drunkenness, orgies and similar things. I warn you now, as I warned you before: those who behave like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. What the Spirit brings is very different: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control. You cannot belong to Christ Jesus unless you crucify all self-indulgent passions and desires. Since the Spirit is our life, let us be directed by the Spirit." If we are sticking to our guns and sticking only to our respective groups, then how can we belong to Christ Jesus, since we are actually being self-indulgent with only our group?

This is why we cannot be Christians and at the same time be attached or fixated to only a particular group. The Holy Spirit is gifted to all of us, regardless of who we are and where we come from. The second reading tells us that: "There is a variety of gifts but always the same Spirit; there are all sorts of service to be done, but always to the same Lord; working in all sorts of different ways in different people, it is the same God who is working in all of them. The particular way in which the Spirit is given to each person is for a good purpose." Ultimately, we have to ask ourselves honestly and sincerely: are we Christians only in name, but self-serving in practice? Or are we truly making every effort to be united as one family of God? Are we willing to come out of our comfort zones and reach out to others, especially those who are not so familiar to us, with love and Christian charity? Let us mean what we say when we sing: "We are one in the Spirit, We are one in the Lord. And they'll know we are Christians by our love."

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