The Stanley Cup playoffs are nearing their end. Some of the favourites are still around. Some of the long-shots continue to survive. Often in the playoffs, the “underdog” surprises everyone. Frequently, as well, the favourites fade and disappear early on. Why does this happen? These favourites have great talent. Through the regular season their performance has been excellent, much better than the “underdogs” who simply squeaked into the playoffs. Time and again it is these “underdogs” who end up taking the cup. How does this happen?
Perhaps talent is only half of the game. What is needed is “spirit”, “heart”, the drive to use the talents and gifts to their full. This spirit allows the talent to work as a team. It gives the team the drive to reach beyond what appear to be their capabilities. Our talents, our gifts will take us only so far. Without spirit or what we sometimes refer to as “heart”, our talent, gifts and skills are lifeless. A team, a people, a community, a person can experience this. We can be dogged by a “defeated spirit.”
Those disciples who gathered after the crucifixion faced this reality. They had walked and talked with Jesus. They had heard his message. They had seen his actions. They had been his friends and followers. Now they lost heart. They were dogged by a “defeated spirit.” But the appearances of the risen Jesus, like the one we see in John’s Gospel (John 14:15-16, 23-26) on this Pentecost Sunday draws them back to the power and hope of the Spirit that gives them heart.
This Spirit, that was to remain with the disciples is the one that Paul refers to in his letter to the Christians in Corinth (1Cor.12:3-7) – Now there are a variety of gifts, but the same Spirit. Filled with this Spirit, they went forth and began to change the world with the message and the mission that they had received.
The Spirit poured out upon the disciples on that first Pentecost gave them new gifts which brought new life, new heart to the variety of their own personal talents and abilities. They became a community of disciples, filled with energy and drive for the message and the mission. The outpouring of the Spirit builds the disciples into a community of believers and missionaries of the message of Jesus. In a real sense they become a team. They become Church, focused on hearing the message anew and taking it out to the ends of the earth.
We are Church. We are a Spirit-filled community of disciples of Jesus. On this Feast of Pentecost, we celebrate the Spirit that we have been given. With this Spirit the variety of gifts that we possess can bring new heart to a world seeking hope and promises and a sense of new life.