Every ending is a beginning. Some endings arrive with a bang, others in a simple, calm whimper. Some beginnings ignite in a blaze of glory, other beginnings -- like the dawn of each day -- occur in a gentle, almost undetectable way. The Pascal/Ascension cycle, that 90-day procession, reaches its long-awaited climax. There in the presence of a strong, driving wind, in the appearance of tongues of fire, is a theophany -- an appearance of God – as a breathing of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles.
This is reminiscent of the first creation when God breathes life into the form He had created from the earth. In this action, man received life. The risen Christ breathes the Holy Spirit on the frightened, huddled disciples. A new creation is born. This new creation is public, not private. It is for all of humankind. It is meant to transform all creation. There is now a newness to humankind and an evolving order. The old has now passed away and a new creation is in progress. A creation that can be -- and was -- opposed.
This new creation can never be prevented from reaching its intended destiny. We, as human beings, have been given great dignity as co-creators with God of this new creation. How do we make it personal? How can we connect with our daily living? How do we connect with the reality of God sending the Holy Spirit to enter, vivify and empower these disciples? Huddled in fear, they none-the-less went forth and became the living presence of Jesus Christ. They were given the life of the Spirit to live life fully free from fear.
To recap the Jesus of history, He has died and then risen as the Christ of God, the Christ of Faith. He has ascended, departed, no longer a physical presence. He has departed to Heaven, wounds and all. In the Old Testament, we had a God of power. Yahweh evolved from one of the many gods to Number One among those many gods. He was a God who was for His people and had a power to defend and protect them. To put it in today's language, Yahweh was so powerful, so strong, "you did not mess with His people." God proved it over and over. He was always there for His people. Even when His people deserted Him and His ways of living, He did not desert them. He was always the Good Shepherd who cared for His flock, even when they strayed. As it was, so it is.
In the New Testament, there is a change. God now becomes more personal. God now is known as a God "with His people," Emmanuel. He becomes flesh, enmeshed in our humanity. He is "likened to us in all things, except sin." He dies to show His love for each one of us and all sinners. He comes to share in everything we as human beings are asked to endure. He comes to be our foundational concept of God. This would enable us to move from the transcendent other-worldly presence of God beyond, to the imminent God with us. Mankind can now believe God is always with them and beside them.
As it was, so it is.
He is the God that no matter where humankind goes or where humankind finds itself, this God has gone before them, ready to welcome them wherever they tread. He is a God who definitely is with His people. As a God with us, He then tells us something really startling. He tells us it's better that He leaves so that He can become the God within us, through the Spirit, the new Advocate, whom He will send when He leaves.
As it was, so it is.
He can only be a God within when we make room for Him. As we look at history, salvation history, we see that God seemed to have serious trouble with finding a home, a place to dwell. It took Him time to have the Ark of the Covenant built as His dwelling place. Then He had a temple built. That did not turn out to be such a safe home -- it was destroyed. When He became human to dwell among us, it was not only difficult, but actually impossible, to find a human dwelling place in which to be born. We are told in scripture -- by Jesus Himself -- that the God-man had no place to lay His head. He was, however, invited to the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus. These invitations to meals, He accepted. God has this tremendous love for you and me. He awaits our invitation. He asks our permission to come and eat with us. He asks for our permission to confer, to bestow the gift of His life-giving spirit when it is we who depend on Him for our very existence. What a mysterious love affair this is! This love affair is modeled for us in God's inner life. God's inner life is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit living as one, yet dwelling within each one of us. This is the wonder-full mystery that we are celebrating this weekend. As we reflect on the mystery of the Holy Trinity we can break it down in the following way:
God For... is our Father
God With... is our Savior Jesus Christ
God Within... is the Holy Spirit dwelling within each one of us
The dreamer’s journey continues…