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Violence prevention is necessary to protect the common good

The fifty days of the Easter season have been filled with ongoing conflicts, traumatic events and painful reminders of loss. Sadly, this season of hope, peace and renewal has been marked with the continuing conflict in Ukraine, senseless mass shootings and the anniversary of George Floyd’s murder. On this Pentecost Sunday, we hear readings that draw our attention to the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. At this moment, we must be attuned to the Spirit, and this might require us to accept uncomfortable truths.

“Receive the Holy Spirit” (Jn 20:22).

Liturgical day

Pentecost Sunday

Readings

Acts 2:1-11; Ps 104; 1 Cor 12:3-13 or Rom 8:8-17; Jn 20:19-23

Prayer

Are you open to letting the Spirit inspire your life?

Are you willing to give up some rights to protect the common good?

How can we obtain peace and healing in a world filled with violence?

The first reading from Acts and the Gospel from John give us two different accounts of how Jesus’ followers receive the Holy Spirit. In Acts, before his ascension, Jesus had told the disciples that the Spirit would come to them after his departure. As they struggle with the reality of not having Christ physically present, they are given some solace in knowing that they are not alone. In today’s reading, the disciples gather together, and the Spirit appears above them as tongues of fire.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus appears to his followers after the resurrection, offering them peace and giving the Spirit to them. “Receive the Holy Spirit.” This command is one that all of us must take to heart. The Spirit enables the community to find peace and comfort after loss and carry on the work of the Gospel. It is the Holy Spirit who can help us to get through this challenging time.

There are two options on Pentecost Sunday for the second reading, and 1 Corinthians is apt at this time. Reading the full text (1 Cor 12:1-13) helps to better understand the passage. In it, Paul says that there are many gifts from the Spirit, such as wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing and discernment. Everyone can receive these gifts, and they are “given for some benefit” (Gk. sumpheron). What the lectionary reads as “benefit” can also be translated as “the common good,” as it is in some other English translations of the Bible. “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor 12:7, NRSV).

Imagine if we faced the challenges of today with wisdom, knowledge and healing for the sake of the common good. How might we react to yet another tragic school shooting where 19 children and 2 adults were murdered by assault rifles? Would we acknowledge that high-powered guns should be difficult if not impossible to acquire? Would we recognize that the Holy Spirit (and anyone with sense) would lead us to protect our collective right to live over our right to bear arms? Would we recognize that in order to truly be pro-life we must protect life at all stages from acts of violence?

On this Pentecost when we commemorate the coming of the Holy Spirit, let us pray that we truly listen to the Spirit, living, working and legislating for the common good.

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