“Shalom” Homily for Pentecost Sunday
After Easter, the Bible describes the story of the early church. The events of this time are especially recounted in two books: the Gospel of John and the Book of Acts. Let’s look at the chronology of the events after the Resurrection:
- 1st Appearances of Jesus to Mary of Magdala [John]
- The appearance of Jesus to the Apostles in upper room. [John]
- Receiving the Breath of the Holy Spirit [John]
- The 2nd appearance of Jesus to the Apostles + Thomas [John]
- The Ascension [Acts]
- Pentecost and (re)appearance of Holy Spirit (in tongues of flames) [Acts]
- The manifestation of the effects of the Holy Spirit (in the different tongues of language) [Acts]
- The addition of the 3,000 who heard the basic proclamation of the Gospel or the Kerygma [Acts]
There’s a lot going on. You can sense the up and down of emotions in the midst of the events. Sad that Christ died. Ecstatic that he’s alive. Skepticism that he has risen. Rejoicing, yet doubting in seeing him. Fear – then courage.
In the midst of this, what does Jesus say?
”Jesus came and stood in their midst and He said to them, “Peace be with you.“
It is a Hebrew word but similar to words in other semitic languages. It is a common and ordinary greeting. It is also a blessing which the Israelites consider as a gift of Yahweh.
The word “Shalom” does not translate well. “Peace” is used in English as the translation. Yet it does not connote the rich meaning of the word. Let’s look at three ideas of shalom:
- “Completeness” It is finished.” (Jesus Christ). “I’m going to bed now, Lord. It’s your church anyway.” (St. Pope John XXIII). Having everything completed does not necessarily lead to peace. Very often trying to get everything done before we shut off the light just leads to more anxiety. It’s interesting to see life at a monastery. When the bell rings, the monks just drop what they’re doing and go onto the next officially scheduled activity. That could be meals. That could be prayer. That could be recreation. That could be time for rest. The bell always interrupts what it is that they are doing.
It represents the interruption of Jesus Christ into human history. And so they allow the interruption to set the tone for the day. They realize that not everything is complete. Not everything will be completed. That kind of final completion is only possible by God. You can set something down and let the incompleteness rest in the hand of God. With that, you can gain a sense of peace.
• “Perfection” I heard of a conversation between a priest and a mother. She was struggling with her perception of her matronly competence. Her children had been especially difficult that week. She felt that she was failing in the task. The priest said, “But you are the perfect mother.” The mother retorted, “That’s not true. I’m not a perfect mother.” The priest countered, “I did not say you are A perfect mother. I said you are THE perfect mother. Millions of years ago, God saw the creation of your children. He realized that he needed someone to raise each child. He hand-picked only one person in history to perform that task. And that’s why he created you. You were chosen, by God, even with all of your imperfections. You were chosen specifically to be the perfect mother for these children. That’s why they need you. That’s why you need God.
We were created on purpose for a purpose. Within that purpose resides our vocation, our occupation, our hobbies, our interactions with other people, the tasks that we are to perform. In prayer with God, and with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we get a sense of which tasks we are to be accomplishing in each day in our lives. We get a sense of how much we are to accomplish. We know when we are under the grace of God and doing what it is that we should be doing. We know when we are out of our element because we lose our peace.
• “A condition in which nothing is lacking.” Another word for this is contentment. I once heard an explanation of “satisfaction in heaven.” The conversation arose from the question as to whether some people are holier than others. The person said that, yes some people quantitatively do more on earth in terms of furthering the kingdom than others. However, that usually means they had more capacity to do so. These people also had more responsibility to do more for the kingdom in order to become fully content. A thimble that is full of water is full. It has reached its capacity. You cannot pour any more water into a full thimble. A bucket has more capacity than a thimble. You need to pour more water into the bucket for it to be full. Once it is full, you can’t pour any more water into a full bucket.
And so it is with us. Each of us has a capacity. We lose our peace when we begin to outstretch our capacity and out run God’s grace.
If you are not feeling peaceful about the task that you are doing, see if it is possible that you are running away from where God is pouring out the shower of grace specifically aimed at you at this time.