At Pentecost we celebrate the presence of the Holy Spirit amongst God’s people. It is worth recalling, however, that this is not the first time we hear of, or encounter, the Holy Spirit in the Bible. Whilst Pentecost is sometimes seen as the birth of the Church, it does not signify the birth of the Holy Spirit. The collective accounts of the Holy Spirit in the Bible remind us that above all else the Holy Spirit is a Spirit of Peace!
The first reference to the Holy Spirit is of course in the first stories of creation when we are told the Spirit of God hovered over the waters! And we are told that the action of the Holy Spirit is to bring order into chaos. To speak light into darkness and life into the void. It is the action of a Spirit intent on peace and harmony and calm. This idea is reinforced throughout the Old Testament.
Not least in the story of Elijah as he waits in a cave to hear God’s voice and we read … the Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord’s Spirit is about to pass by. Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
The Spirit of God revealed in a gentle whisper. A spirit of peace and calm. hyaThis idea of the Holy Spirit and a Spirit of Peace is further established when we meet the Holy Spirit at Jesus Baptism in the Jordan. And what symbol is used to reveal the presence of the Holy Spirit .. it is a dove! The dove .. that great symbol of peace!
The Holy Spirit then is above all a Spirit of Peace. Whilst the events of Pentecost are rather raucous and chaotic we must never forget that the result of these events is to bring peace and harmony to our world.
What can we learn about God from this part of God’s nature .. from the Holy Spirit as a manifestation of God on earth. What can we learn about Jesus that this Holy Spirit of Peace is His parting gift to His disciples?
Think for a moment about what you might want to leave with someone you love if you knew you were going away? What would be your greatest prayer for that person or those people? Would it not be that they would know peace?
We might think that we would want to leave money or possessions or even memories or advice .. but these are only ever a means to an end! Whatever we would want to leave would be in order that those we love might have a sense of peace and rest in their lives .. is that not true.
So Jesus cuts to the core … I will not leave you gold or silver or a handbook on how to live a religious life. I will leave you my Holy Spirit whose presence is the source of peace in the storms of life. The Holy Spirit in the Church is doing the same work as she did at the start of Creation .. hovering over us .. speaking light into our darkness .. forming substance out of emptiness .. bringing peace out of chaos.
This is the gift which God the Father bestowed upon Jesus at His Baptism. It is the gift Jesus leaves the Church. And it is the gift the Church has for the world. A gift of peace which has hovered over us form the foundation of the world and which will descend upon us when we give ourselves over to the Will of God!