Communist officials intended this tower to be a showpiece to the West. But instead, a fluke in design turned it into a giant embarrassment. Whenever the sun hits the tower a certain way, the tower turns into an enormous shimmering cross. West Berliners quickly dubbed this Christian symbol in a Communist country the “Pope’s Revenge,” divine retaliation for the government’s removal of all crosses from East Berlin’s churches. An embarrassed government reportedly tried painting the tiles to eliminate the cross without success.
Something similar happened in Jerusalem after the crucifixion of Jesus. Those who put Jesus to death hoped that the cross would be a symbol of how they blotted out the Christian movement. But instead, it did just the opposite. The Christian movement began to spread like a raging forest fire. With the cross, it’s most potent image. It spread so spectacularly that by the year A.D. 64 it had become a powerful force in faraway Rome. It became so powerful that the Roman emperor Nero made it the target of an all-out persecution.
How did Christianity in 30 short years grow from a tiny spark into a raging infernal?
That amazing story is told in the Acts of the Apostles. And the starting point for that extraordinary story is what we heard about in today’s readings. The Holy Spirit whom Jesus had promised to send his disciples descended upon them on Pentecost and transformed them. Like the sunlight turning that tower into a Christian symbol. The Holy Spirit - lit up - the apostles - and made them into the body of Christ, alive and on fire, spreading the message of Jesus to people of all nations and languages.
The apostles that day went from being a confused body of human beings, and in a moment, they were transformed into a courageous body of Christian believers. They went from a cowardly band of disoriented people and in an instant were transformed into a single body of witnesses which became one of the most powerful organizations on earth ... the Church.
It’s easy to read these stories and to marvel at what happened that day some 2000 years ago and think – wow – that was incredible and unique. But the truth is what the Holy Spirit began on that first Pentecost was just the beginning - a start - that is traced down to us today, here in this church. What started that day is left to us to complete. Like the disciples in today’s Gospel, each one of us received the Holy Spirit in a personal way, through our baptism and our confirmation. And like the disciples of Jesus, we have received the gift of the Holy Spirit for a purpose.
You might be saying in your head right now ... Who Me? ... No way!
But listen to how St. Paul said it to the early Christians:
There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit;
there are different forms of service but the same Lord;
there are different workings but the same God
who produces all of them ... in everyone.
To each one of us, the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.
Today is a day to ask ourselves: What gift of the Spirit have I been given? What service am I called to do? Today our readings call each one of us to take an active role in the Church’s work of bringing the Gospel to all peoples.
This might mean being the very best Christian mother or father we can be, making sure our children hear the Gospel. Living our faith so openly, other parents are inspired to bring the faith to their children. Perhaps we are given the gift to live our faith so attractively that those we work with wish to know the Gospel, and what it is that makes us a joy to be around. Maybe we are called to support the missionary work of the Church – with both monetary and prayer support. We can help mission work being done by our parishioners Katie and Betty who go to Ecuador to help spread the faith or Cece and Jim who bring the faith to the high mountain regions of Peru. They bring the gift of light through solar power while also bringing the light of Gospel to people's souls. Maybe the Holy Spirit is giving you the gift to bring the light of Christ to those living in prison. The Holy Spirit might be calling you to join with our Kairos prison team – that brings the light of the Gospel into the darkness of Donavan prison.
The Holy Spirit has anointed us so that we can put into practice and live out what we profess on Sunday. Let’s ask ourselves with deep conviction:
What gift of the Spirit have I been given?
What service am I called to do?