| Acts 2:1-11 | Romans 8:8-17 | John 14:15-16, 23b-26 |Pentecost C ‘13 |
Print PDF: Weekly Homily 05.19.2013
Scripture Readings: May 19, 2013 Pentecost Sunday
Several weeks ago I was visiting some friends down river, and someone asked, “is Christianity a religion or a way of life?” That is a serious question. I have been pondering it since, asking what the Pentecost event says about it.
“Is Christianity a “religion” or a “way of life?” It seems to be both.
“Religion” is a multi-dimensional reality. There are Western and Eastern religions, ancient and modern religions, monotheistic and polytheistic religions. Most “religions” provide certain and absolute answers for the enigmas of life like marriage, birth, illness, and death.
On the first Saturday of May, people calling themselves “Christians” stood in downtown Missoula on the four corners where Higgins and Broadway intersect. Their signs called passer-bys “to believe,” “to repent,” “to prepare to meet God.” Christianity become “religion” typically obsesses about “being saved,” “sin,” “our need for forgiveness,” and “getting into heaven.” Such Christianity is a “religion.” It has been since the time of the emperor Constantine when the patterns of power, money and exclusion began to create an institution.
Any serious student of the gospels knows that Jesus of Nazareth had no intention of establishing a “religion.” He asked questions and wrestled with the enigmas of life, but he offered no certain and absolute answers. He sought to live in harmony with that Gracious Mystery he named God. His passion was to teach and live the new reality emerging among us. He named that new reality “the reign or kingdom of God.”
Christianity is less a religion of formal ritual and worship than an invitation to become fully human. Christianity was and is a “way of life.” It is a “way of life” rooted in relationship with Christ and made possible by the influence of his Spirit dwelling in us.
In his recall of the first Easter, the evangelist John tells us the Risen One “came and stood among his companions in the house where the doors were locked. “He breathed on them and said ‘receive the Holy Spirit’.” In his text called “Acts,” the evangelist Luke describes a similar experience but locates it fifty days after the resurrection. He tells us “the disciples were all together in one place.” “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.”
In their gospels, neither Mark, Matthew nor Luke record anything about the Holy Spirit descending upon the disciples. In spite of the differences among them, the four evangelists are in agreement about this. “That Gracious Mystery we name God draws and pulls us from within to become a new creation.”
The Pentecost event is about transformation. The divine Spirit has always been present in the slow process of evolution; present in every human being who has walked this planet. The Spirit of the Risen One enables us to be the Living Body of Christ! This is evident in men and women who serve the least among us, seek justice, are peacemakers, or love even strangers. Such men and women have embraced a “way of life” modeled on the life of the Risen One. They make the Christ Mystery present and relevant to this time in which we live.
“Is Christianity a “religion” or a “way of life?” It is primarily “a way of life.” We who embrace Christianity as “a way of life” gather to celebrate Eucharist. We are confident that through our sharing of this bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ renews us to be the Living Body of Christ. It is because of the Spirit that we — this community called “church” – persevere in this “way of life” in spite of our great human frailty and centuries of mistakes. Our lives announce the good news to our peers that Christ is risen! [Truly, he is risen!]