In the mid-1990s-upon returning to the States from our Jesuit High School in Micronesia, I was introduced to the “high tech” world of that time. My newly purchased computer and printer were finally delivered. When I signed for the merchandise, the delivery person departed with a quip and a wink, “The ball is in your court now!”
My heart sank. Piled before me were three large boxes of mystery complete with software and directions. As I read the directions, I found myself more deeply entrenched in mystery. I needed guidance, and thanks to a fellow priest, the hiddenness of the computer’s mystery unfolded.
Pentecost Sunday never fails to remind me of the delivery person’s parting words, “The ball is in your court now.” This festive day charges us to give form and shape to the mysteries of Christ which we celebrate. From Advent to Easter, the Church carefully spells out the directions that guide us to the way, the truth and the life of our earthly pilgrimage toward life’s meaning. Along with the directions, the Feast of Pentecost renews the hope that God’s Spirit is with us as we assemble our lives according to Christ’s directions. Jesus said to his disciples: “The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will instruct you in everything and remind you of all that I told you.”
You see, Christ’s Ascension which we celebrated ten days ago, did not leave us alone with the ball in our court. Jesus promised his disciples, “I will not leave you orphaned; I will come back to you.”
But we must not forget that the ball is still in our court. Pentecost makes it clear that God’s Spirit came in tongues of fire “to rest on each of them” so that the disciples might be enlightened to carry on Christ’s saving work. The presumption that the Holy Spirit is going to do it all, “to make all the scores” is as hopeless as the extreme of despair.
When Jesus gathered his disciples for a last meal together, he identified himself with bread and wine. As he broke the bread and passed the cup, he asked them to “do this in remembrance of me.” Do what? To break the bread of their lives and pour out their blood as testimony that God’s Spirit is active and laboring in making the presence of Christ alive, real and vital in them and in their lives lived in witness to the Gospel.
Pentecost is not the end of an Advent-to-Easter presentation of the mysteries of faith. Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Ascension and Pentecost are not celebrations of faith for our admiration only. They are invitations for us to become what we celebrate. The mysteries of faith become visible in the flesh and blood of our presence. We give form to the meaning of their hiddenness.
The time between Pentecost and Advent is not “filler.” These 34 weeks of Ordinary Time exhort us to live out our faith so that Christ may be experienced as supremely alive, real, and vital in us and in our world. Led by God’s Spirit, our lived witness of faith makes visible the presence of Jesus in the dailyness of life. The Spirit of Jesus is with us so that the truth of Jesus’ promise might be continuously verified: “I will come back to you.” My friends, the Holy Spirit is with us that we might become the “fifth gospel.”
Pentecost speaks to us today: You have the directions with God’s Spirit to guide you. The ball is now in your court! Realize how powerful you are. Rediscover where and how you can make things happen – from a smile on a care-worn face, through legislation for the afflicted, to peace in some corner of your world. Link your power in the world to the power within you, the Spirit of light, the Spirit of life, the Spirit of love.
Shake that Spirit loose! In a nutshell, let God come alive in you!