by HG Yuhanon Mor Meletius
There are four Gospel readings prescribed for the Sunday of Pentecost. The first one of course is for the H. Qurbono which is from St. John 15:1-14. The other three are for the kneeling and all of them from the Gospel according to St. John; first, 14:1-14, second 14:25-31 and third 16-1-15. Jesus after having had his last supper with his disciples, is trying to educate them of the things that they should be aware of in the days to come after his death.
Chapter 17 onwards Jesus addresses his Father and presents the disciples and with them all those who will come to him by the testimony of the disciples. So what is seen in these chapters can be said as his farewell message. Jesus through his words on the one hand, comforts the disciples and on the other, exhorts them to be strong to face future when he was not physically around. He also speaks about the gift of the Spirit which will enable them face future.
Taking all the four readings together, a theme is presented before the congregation by the Church. It can be put in one word, ‘relationship’; relationship between God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and with life of humans in relationship. From the kind of relationship exists between the Holy Trinity, Jesus derives a model for the human relationship. This is a unique kind of methodology. We humans derive models for our life in this world from Godhead and the relationship that exists within Godhead (H.G. Dr. Geevarghese Mar Osthathios Thirumeni has written so much about his). Christian faith in the Holy Trinity is not just a talk about some philosophical theory, rather it is the talk about a model, inspiration and guide for our lives in this world.
In the reading in John 15:1-14, Jesus talks about his relation with his Father and with us. This has consequence on our relation with God and on our Christ-centered lives. The principle that underlies all relationships is nothing but love. Where there is love in relationship there will be peace. When love governs relationships, peace would rule the arena. The world will not be ‘worldly’ any more.
Jesus is going to the Father and through that he on behalf of and as the first of all humans transcends the world. But for humans what Jesus achieved through his death and resurrection can be achieved in its fullness only in future. To make this future possibility a reality, one has to be in close relations with Jesus (‘abide in me’) and through him in his Father. If one is not in Jesus, that person is not with the Father, and if not with the Father, is out of relationship and fellowship. This means non existence of that person. As of now for us to be with Jesus can only be by the help and empowering of the Holy Spirit.
This is where Orthodox definition of sacrament becomes relevant. To us a sacrament is “Entering in to the presence of the Father through Jesus Christ, the Son of God in Holy Spirit”. Every act in our life need to be an act in this style and only then we will truly be sanctified or divinized. To this cause, Jesus had to go away. This has two implications; one, he had to go away to the cross and two, to go away beyond this material world.
One cannot cling on to the historical Jesus and be saved; because history is of the physical realm which cannot as such, unless transformed, enter in to eternity (1 Cor. 15:42-54). Hence we also need to go through a process of dying as Jesus did, that is die to the world and become spiritual people. For us it can be done even while we are in this world. We can die to the world and live to Christ even while we are in the world (Rom. 14:8). When we die to the world, we will also be renewed in Spirit. This is what Jesus was telling Nicodemus when he asked Jesus about eternal life. We need to constantly be dying or being washed and be filled or resurrected in Christ (in Spirit) by the Holy Spirit (John 3:5).
In the liturgy of Pentecost we are, liturgically taking on ourselves this process of dying and filling. When we kneel down, we try to put away what is to death or sin in us and when we rise up and sprinkled with water, we are renewed in Spirit. This can happen only in the context of a community and not in isolation as love can work only in between and not in self. Only when there is another than the one and only when the relationship between is guided by the principle of love this washing and filling will happen. This is why Jesus on another occasion, said “when two or three are gathered together, I am in their midst” (Matthew 18:20).
The word ‘together’ is very much important in this context. The narration in the Book of Acts of the Apostles about the event of Pentecost clearly says “When they were all with one accord …” (Acts 2:1) the Holy Spirit descended on them.
Holy Spirit works when we are at peace with one another and peace can prevail only when there is love which binds people together. The day of Pentecost, of course is the day of the renewal of the Holy Spirit today in our time. But it does not magically or automatically happen. It can happen only when we love each other and when we are at peace between one another. A world which is divided for all kinds of wrong reason, and a world guided by selfishness, greed and individualism, a world troubled by wars, hatred, in-fight and quarrels need to listen to the message of Pentecost.
We all look for progress and welfare in our lives and in our environment. We all
ask, “what is the way out”? We ask how can have freedom, liberation and
salvation happen and how can ‘I’ enjoy it for myself? The answer was already
been given to Nicodemus saying, ‘die to the world and be filled with the
empowering Spirit, set love as the principle that guides relationships, and
peace be established every where. Just as the Father and the Son and the Spirit
are one, let us be one with God and with one another. “Let us all rise up (from
the valley of death and darkness) by the power of the Holy Spirit” and transform
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