Monday, 6 June 2011

Pentecost Sunday Vigil Mass - Year A

Joel 3:1-5; Romans 8:22-27; John 7:37-39

'If any man is thirsty, let him come to me! Let the man come and drink who believes in me!' As scripture says: From his breast shall flow fountains of living water.

Thirsty, drink, flow, fountains, living water, Spirit. Even the most distracted, preoccupied, or disinterested among us could not miss the point, and in case one of us did John adds: He was speaking of the Spirit …. .

Today I want to speak to you of the Holy Spirit and of one of the great sources, springs, wells of the Holy Spirit - the Sacred Scriptures – from which we can drink to our heart’s content.

However, we do well to recall, firstly, that the Holy Spirit is referred to in Scripture in other images too. Wind is a common one, as in the first reading from tomorrow’s Mass: they heard what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven… . Fire is another common image for the Holy Spirit: something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire … .

But today Jesus is speaking of the Holy Spirit as water, as he did to the Samaritan woman at the well: If you only knew what God is offering … you would have been the one to ask, and he would have given you living water… (Jn 4:10). As we press on we could make the Samaritan woman’s ingenuous request to Jesus our own: ‘Sir, … give me some of that water… .

And, of course, Jesus has given us some of that water; he was born, suffered, died and rose to give us some of that water. He gives it superabundantly in the sacraments. He gives it, along with fire and wind, in our prayer time, when we ask him for it ( much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! (Mt 7:11). He gives it also in our good works and even in our sufferings, when we join them to his.

And yet the Bible is a place we Catholics rarely think of when we seek the Holy Spirit. St John of Fecamp calls it ‘a source of living water’. Rupert of Deutz confirms for us that this living water is indeed the Holy Spirit when he says that in Scripture we ‘drink from the fountain of divine knowledge’, and divine knowledge, as we know, is given by the Holy Spirit. As St Paul says: …the depths of God can only be known by the Spirit of God (1Cor 2:11).

Just to open the Bible is to 'unfurl my sails to the Holy Spirit' says St Jerome, using the image of wind or breath, while Archbishop Magrassi proposes that the prayerful reading of the Sacred Scripture will see, 'A blazing fire is enkindled in the soul, one that is capable of spreading.' The prophet Jeremiah feels the word like a burning fire shut up in his bones(Jer 20:9). The two disciples of Emmaus felt their hearts 'burning' within them as the Lord explained the Scriptures to them;

The Scriptures were written under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and can only be read and assimilated in the light and power of that same Spirit. This is why the Bible is a ‘living’ word. Just as God did not make the world and then go away, so the Spirit did not inspire the Scriptures and then leave.* St Gregory holds that just as the Holy Spirit touched the mind of the biblical authors so ‘he also (though not in the same way) touches the mind of the reader.’*

In the sacred pages of the Bible, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we come to know Christ, the goal of all our knowing. St Paul develops this by describing the Good News as ‘the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith’(Rm 1:16).

Salvation is the overarching theme of the entire Bible, Old and New Testaments together, and that salvation is none other than the person of Jesus Christ. But not only does Scripture speak of him, it causes us to ‘meet’ him.

Pope Benedict says in Verbum Domini No. 87: The documents produced before and during the Synod mentioned a number of methods for a faith-filled and fruitful approach to sacred Scripture. Yet the greatest attention was paid to lectio divina, which is truly “capable of opening up to the faithful the treasures of God’s word, but also of bringing about an encounter with Christ, the living word of God”.

In reading the Scriptures diligently and with faith we open ourselves up to ‘an encounter with Christ’, and isn’t he the real object of our ‘thirst’.

It is no surprise that the Scripture is an essential part of every Eucharist. Word and Sacrament always go together. Indeed, the Mass in defined by its two constitutive elements – the liturgy of the Word and the liturgy of the Eucharist.

To be honest, my words today have no other purpose than to once again bring to your attention the crucial importance of making the reading of Sacred Scripture a normal part of our daily spiritual life. Jesus meets us and reveals himself to us in many ways but undoubtedly there is no more privileged and certain way than in the Scriptures.
*PRAYING THE BIBLE by Mariano Magrassi, Liturgical Press, page 22 ff.

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