By Father Patrick Longalong
The beginning of the Gospel this weekend should be something that people might be able to understand in these days of the pandemic. We only need to change one word and it should sound like this, “on the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the coronavirus.”
This weekend, we are asked to identify and accept the reality of fear in our life. Unfortunately, it has been prevalently identified as a “negative” emotion. But it serves as a critical alarm that reminds us to be careful of dangerous situations. There is a purpose and a healthy side to fear. It is good to remember that this natural human response is also required for wisdom to grow. It is a part of the discernment process in weighing whether something is good and safe or if it is evil and deadly.
However, if you do not keep a good balance in your fear, it can lead you to spiritual paralysis and not experiencing the life-giving presence of God. Does fear steal your joy? Do you find yourself constantly worrying about the “what ifs?” Then you should allow the Holy Spirit’s presence to strengthen and encourage your faith to face many things that are beyond our control.
A few months ago, a good friend had lost his job after working for 12 years at a company. It was a huge disappointment for him since he poured a lot of energy and dedication into his work. He eventually started doubting his abilities. Furthermore, he was gripped with fear that no one would hire him anymore because of his age. For a few months I have seen him withdraw from social events and regular activities. I forwarded him job opportunities to apply but he wasn’t sending his resume.
We eventually got into an argument because I was worried that he might end up losing his apartment. He eventually said, “I find myself suddenly afraid of everything. I don’t even want to try anymore. I don’t think I can handle further rejection and think I am not good enough.” We discussed what he said for a moment until I finally convinced him to try again. We prayed together and asked the Lord to take him where he needed to go. Weeks later he got a temporary job. I congratulated him and said it is a good first step back into the workforce. I can tell that he was happy and slowly regaining his self-confidence. All he needed was someone to push him in the right direction.
At the beginning of Easter, we heard many stories when Jesus found his disciples at moments of discouragement, loss, and fear of what will happen next. He spent time with them knowing that he would eventually have to leave to be with the Father. However, Christ knew that his disciples would need encouragement to continue the work of evangelization. This is the reason St. Paul tells the Corinthians in the second reading that “no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” We cannot fulfill the work of discipleship alone. We need the support of God’s presence and the Church community. Jesus’ first disciples cannot leave the upper room without the help of the Holy Spirit.
My friend could not leave his house to apply for a job and start his life again without my help. It is clear that when a person has someone to assist them and is open to it, they can reach a life where they could find fulfillment and peace.
This Pentecost, let us open ourselves to be renewed by the presence of the Holy Spirit so we may find once again that courage, fulfillment, and peace in proclaiming the Good News to a world heavily burdened by all the various crises that this pandemic has brought us.
Readings for Pentecost Sunday
Psalm 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34
1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13
Father Longalong is the pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes, Queens Village, and coordinator of the Ministry to Filipino Immigrants.