Pentecost Sunday

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Last week found me driving across the country as I helped my sister with her move to Colorado. Somewhere in the middle of Nebraska we passed a large billboard proclaiming in bold letters “AFTER YOU DIE YOU WILL MEET GOD.” I’m sure they meant it to be an unsettling thought, one to stimulate passing motorists to “prepare to meet their maker.” It was unsettling for me. What was wrong with their beliefs that they thought one had to wait until after death to meet God? During the last supper Jesus tells the disciples that he is going away to prepare a place for them in the Father’s house. Philip says “Show us the Father,” but Jesus replies “Have I been with you for so long a time and still you do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”

Readers of the billboard, be aware. God is here, you’ve met him already. Catholics, you who believe the Eucharist to truly be the Body and Blood of Christ – you have already met God the Father. Jesus tells us on that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.” Those who live in Christ are one in Christ, and consequently, one in the Father. They have met God. During the long drive my sister and I listened to the audio book The Code Talkers, a memoir by Chester Nez. At one point the narrator tells of some of the Navaho beliefs and traditions. He says there is no word for “death” in the Navaho tongue. The closest translation might be “unavailable,” as if the deceased were merely in another room, or away on a trip. Jesus tells his disciples that “In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live.” We Christians believe that those who have died in Christ are not fully dead, but merely “unavailable.” They have met God, but it was through living, not through dying.

On my journey away from home, I made phone calls, and used e-mail to keep in touch. Jesus didn’t have our modern technology, but he assured his followers that he would be keeping in touch. He promised them that he would not leave them orphans, abandoned with only memories to guide them. In today’s reading the Risen Christ breathes on his disciples and says “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Referred to in other passages and translations as Advocate, Counselor and Paraclete, this spirit is to be our teacher and guide, and our friend and supporter as well as the one who judges the world. He brings us God’s peace, and fills us with the essence of being spiritually alive. It is that breath of life, that connection with God, that assures us we are not orphans, nor is God “unavailable” to us while we are still here on earth.

It’s true, after I die I will meet God. But it is equally true that I meet him every day right here on earth. There is no excuse to wait to acknowledge His presence.

Linda Crowley