Jn 20.19-23                 AA 2.3-13             Gal 5.16-25

In recent weeks, we’ve had state and then federal budgets, and the tendency is to ask what’s in it for me, rather than will this contribute to the welfare of more in our society, which, on reflection, we should acknowledge is the preferable response! Somehow the bill has to be footed to provide for a fair and just society where all are acknowledged to have their place and their rights respected.  And we are meant to pride ourselves in the country of the ‘fair go’!

Ian Robinson of Cowes wrote this Letter to the Age on Thursday, stating: “Taxation is the method by which we all join together to enable our community to achieve its common aims and to promote the national good. What’s in it for each and every one of us is hospitals, and schools and roads and aged care and a law enforcement system and an effective defence capability and so on… An individual’s $100 will hardly get them through the supermarket checkout these days, but the same $100 as tax, put together with everyone else’s, is enough money to pay the salaries of over 1500 doctors, 40000 teachers, 4000 nurses, and 6000 child or aged-care workers… All four!…  It’s time we acknowledged taxation is not a burden but a blessing, and, properly managed, is our only path to building the Australia we all want.”  We could add social welfare, overseas aid and public transport, among others.

At the same time, when the hip pocket nerve is hit, we automatically think of ourselves first, as self-interest is a very natural human quality.  Guided by the Spirit and the Gospel of Jesus, however, we know we need to look beyond ourselves, to do the right thing and to have an outward looking attitude for the welfare of others in our community. This is clearly a Gospel value.

A while back, I referred to historian Tom Holland, who wrote ‘Dominion’, with the contention that the western world of today is steeped in Christian tradition and values, with no escaping that, despite the fact that we live in a secular society, no bad thing in itself.  At the same time, we expect and value the right to express our beliefs and respect those of others.

Today’s Gospel from John points immediately post-Resurrection, to Jesus empowering his fearful followers with enthusiasm – a word deriving from the Greek for ‘God within’, and a sense of mission, to be sent into a world in need of constant improvement and reform. The saying ‘ecclesia semper reformanda’ refers to the Church ever being open to new ways of doing things, expressing and living faith in Jesus, whose promise is to be always with us, as he bids farewell in a physical sense.

Naturally, the disciples are gathered in fear of what is to come next, as Jesus appears among them, and calms the mood with his presence and greeting of peace.  In John’s Gospel, it all happens at once, on the same day as the resurrection.  The mission is clear, to get out there and spread the Good News, and to challenge the disbelieving and the complacent, to offer hope and healing to those weighed down by the worries of the world, with poverty or illness or other afflictions.  It’s not as if everyone is going to be healed on the spot, and all of our problems solved,  but that the burdens can be relieved by working together to live an active faith, applying the principles taught by Jesus to daily life.

The symbolism of Jesus breathing on them all is reminiscent of Genesis, with God’s hovering over the darkness and chaos of the waters, from which life and light emerge and evolve, as he then breathes life into Adam, representing humanity.  At the heart of it all is God’s Spirit, now newly given by the Risen Jesus.

The traditional Pentecost scene is provided by Luke, with pilgrims from all over the known world of Jewish diaspora, gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate in gratitude to God for the gift of land and its produce.  It’s a wonderful picture of diversity and inclusion. This foreshadows the universal Christian mission to spread the Good News to the ends of the earth, to all peoples in their diversity.  The accompanying fire and wind could be seen as reflective of light and power coming from the presence of God’s Spirit.

And so Paul writes to the Galatians, and so you and me, of the fruits which are to be reflected in the lives of believers: ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control’, with a reminder that this means working to overcome self-indulgent passions and desires, as he lists the deadly sins before these virtues.  We can’t argue that the world would be a much better place all round if these positive qualities were seriously applied.  Yes, but, we also know there’s always going to be a dark side out there.  It’s up to you and me to try to counter it, by responding to the Spirit in practice, not just in theory! Nice words are never enough.

I always remember my disappointment at my own Confirmation in 1962 (the year of Vatican II!), when my hope that the gifts of the Spirit, or Holy Ghost, back then would descend upon me and make life easier, with all that ‘wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord’ being infused on the spot.  I grew to realize it just doesn’t happen like that, and that ongoing effort was required on my part for good choices and gaining enlightenment, as a lifelong process, as for all of us!

john hannon                                                                         19th May 2024


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