Gospel Reflections by Father Gerry Pierse, C.Ss.R.

C - Pentecost Sunday

May 30, 2004
Acts 2:1-11• Rom 8:8-17 • Jn 20:19-23

Forgiveness and the Spirit Within

The Story about David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17 is one of the great accounts in the Bible of the discovery of Spirit, of the inner energy that is essential for life.

The Philistine army took up its position on one hill while the Israelites, led by Saul, were on another, with a valley separating the two forces. Then a champion called Goliath came out from the Philistine camp. He was three meters tall. His armor was made of bronze, his helmet and coat weighed sixty kilos. His shield bearer went before him. He stood in front of the Israelites and shouted, "Choose a man from among you to challenge me. If he fights better and kills me, we shall be subject to you: but if I overpower him and kill him, you shall be subject to us." When they heard this Saul and his men were greatly challenged. Every day for forty days the Philistine came out to throw his challenge but no one had the courage or confidence to pick it up.

David, the son of Jesse, had three brothers in the Israelite army. He was the youngest son who stayed behind to tend his father's sheep. One day Jesse sent him to bring food to his brothers who were at the battle line. While there he heard the Philistine's challenge. David said to Saul, "Let no one be discouraged because of this Philistine, for your servant will engage him in battle." Saul told David, "You cannot fight him; you are still young whereas this man has been a warrior from his youth." But David insisted and Saul consented.

Saul fitted his armor on David but the boy could not even walk wearing it. As he was not accustomed to heavy armor he took it off. Instead he took five smooth stones from the brook and with his sling shot in his hand, drew near to the Philistine. Seeing that David was only a boy, Goliath despised and cursed him. But David said, "You have come against me with sword, spear and javelin but I come against you with Yahweh. The people gathered here know that Yahweh does not save by sword and spear." As the Philistine move to attack him, David took a stone and slung it, hitting Goliath in the forehead.

What happened on Pentecost was similar to what happened in the battle between Goliath and David. The disciples of Jesus were looking for an external victory. They wanted Jesus to drive out the Roman occupying power and take over political supremacy. All they could see was external. But at Pentecost they became aware that the power was within, that the message of Christ was about internal attitude, it was about uniting and removing barriers of language and race and domination.

And of all the attitudes demanded by the presence of the Spirit, forgiveness holds pride of place. John the Evangelist reports the coming of the Spirit as happening on Easter Sunday evening. Jesus first tells the disciples to go on mission: "As the Father sent me, so am I sending you." Then he gives them the Holy Spirit. The only gift of the Spirit that he refers to is the gift of forgiving. "When you forgive sins they are forgiven; when you hold them back they are held back." Forgiveness is taking off the armor that weighs us down. The Spirit is given to enable us to do this because we cannot forgive by our own power. The power of forgiveness was given by Christ to all on this occasion. It is a misreading of the text to say it was given only to priests in the confessional.

The fact that Pentecost, the coming of the Spirit to the Church and to the temple of each of our hearts, is bound up with forgiveness became very clear to me a few years ago. My parishioner, Rex Cruz, died in a joy killing when he was only 16 years old. The perpetrators were caught and given long jail sentences. Every month Mrs. Cruz would have mass said on the date of his death. I notice that she continued to wear black even after the traditional year of mourning had expired. One day I spoke to her and said, "You know, Mrs. Cruz, you will never be free until you do something for the men who killed your son." She looked at me with indignation and said, "Never! My only consolation now is that those men are in jail and may they rot there till death and burn in hell for ever!" I said to her, "I appreciate how you feel but give some thought sometime to what I have said." Some months later she turned up in the office smiling and colorfully dressed. She called me and said, "Father, I have something to tell you! Yesterday I wrote a letter to the Board of Pardons and Parole asking clemency for those who killed my son. You know, Father, when I mailed that letter I myself was released from prison!"

Pentecost, the coming of the Spirit, is about inner power and most often this inner power is released when we forgive.


Taken from Sundays into Silence - A Pathway to Life. Copyright © 1998 by Claretian Publications

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Sundays into Silence

A Pathway to Life

by Gerry Pierse, cssr
380 pp., PhP 299, U$ 19.95

“The best word I can find to describe this book is integration. In these reflections on the gospel readings for year A, B, and C of the liturgical cycle, Fr. Pierse integrates the richness of the word of God with experiences and stories from life in the community. He shows how through silence, the word can bear fruit in service and sacrament.” (R. J. Cardinal Vidal)

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