Blown away

31st May 2020

How we must envy those first disciples on the day of Pentecost! The Spirit came upon them like a gale in lockdown… hiding together in the upper room for fear of public opinion …. and then they were blown out onto the street. How lovely to have the freedom to be out of the house … anywhere!

The gospel of St.John pictures the coming of the Spirit in a more subtle way: Jesus breathes on the disciples and they catch the Spirit through his breath. … an echo from the book of Genesis when God breathed on the clay to make a human being. Either way the new Spirit was one of forgiveness, and the new community would have no other way of living.

Many families have been tested these last few weeks … cooped up with close family … forgiveness has been a real challenge.

Today we remember an apostle of forgiveness: Stephen Langton. He is not a household name, but was Arch-bishop of Canterbury 800 years ago in the time of King John. He was hounded by the King who never accepted his authority, and all churches were shut for five years. But Langton helped pressure the King to sign the Magna Carta in 1215, that great foundation stone of British justice.

Unfortunately he then fell foul of church politics and was disowned by the pope and exiled for three years, but Langton held no grudge and quietly followed study of scripture and imaginative prayer. It was he who divided the bible into the chapters and verses that we know today, and he who gave us that beautiful hymn to the Holy Spirit that forms part of the mass of Pentecost today: ‘Holy Spirit Lord of Light’. He lived God’s forgiveness with his life.

Email Fr. Austin SCJ