Pentecost Sunday 2011
Here’s a few thoughts about the Holy Spirit who can turn
your life upside down and inside out!
After Jesus left the disciples and ascended into heaven, the disciples were
cowering behind locked doors, despondent, worried, fearful,
“[Then] suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving
wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there
appeared to them tongues as of fire that parted and came to rest on each
one of them. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to
speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim (Acts 2:1-21.)
The Spirit of God is still transforming people dramatically. When I
became a priest 43 years ago the church was far different than I find it
today. There was lots of joy and excitement and enthusiasm. As a
priest I was encouraged to discover and develop my gifts for ministry
and to help people do the same.
These days, it seems we’ve lost faith that the Holy Spirit can and will
direct the Church as Jesus told us like “the wind that blows where it wills .
. . though [we] do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with
everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).
The Splendor of the Spirit is to encourage gifts. To invite risk. To
reach out beyond safe boundaries. To make connections. To unite. To
The story of Pentecost states that the Spirit of God
is uncontrollable – by us. It comes as a “strong driving wind’ and
“tongues [on] fire! Or in “Trekkie” language, to go “where no one has
The greatest saints did just that! Catherine of Siena (a woman religious!)
chastised the pope. Francis Xavier undauntedly stepped off the boat in
Japan into a culture very foreign to him. A peasant girl named Joan
rallied the French army to victory and was burned at the stake because
of it. Katharine Drexel stepped beyond boundaries to treat Blacks and
Native Americans as persons. And a supposed “care-taker pope” John
XXIII shocked everyone by calling a solemn Council of the Church.
They improvised! They pushed the boundaries of the established
ways of doing things! They were not afraid to do things differently.
They were bold and convicted in the confidence they received from
the Spirit of God – just like at Pentecost. They were the innovators, the
Reformers. The ones who led and changed the Church. They listened
to the Holy Spirit who prompted /disturbed / prodded / led them/
inspired them / and became their “Defense Attorney” or Advocate, i.e.
“Paraclete.” They simply learned to trust that they were tuned into
God from moment to moment who would guide them in what to say
and do at the appropriate time.
The Holy Spirit is about freedom, about encouraging us to use our
ingenuity, resources and gifts to help build up the [kin]dom of God.
We are to become co-creators with God. The source of our talent is
the Spirit, yes. But we have to shape it. The Spirit is not afraid that
people are going to make mistakes or go too far when given such
Thus, I believe it is a sin to demand absolute obedience of mind and
will for bishops and priests and people who have also been given their
portion of the share of the Spirit. The Nuremberg trials condemned
men who excused themselves by saying they were only following
orders. Responsible authority calls us to use the gifts of intelligence
and courage and pastoral conviction for the sake of one’s people no
matter what the cost. If that means risking ridicule or criticism for
taking an unpopular stance, then fidelity to the gospel demands it.
Thirty years ago my life entered a path that was strange
and ironic, one that I did not expect to take. In May 1980, I had had a
very severe manic break in Washington, D.C. that precipitated a turning
point in my priesthood. I went to Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville,
Virginia for prayer and discernment with the abbot, Father Edward
McCorkell. Though I took a leave of absence from the priesthood he
called me to contemplative prayer! That may seem very ironic
and strange. But that decision, I am convinced, was
Spirit-driven and that little man guided me for many
years afterwards to allow contemplative prayer to
become the foundation of my life – and my writing.
Contemplative prayer, very simply, is just
“hanging out with God.” It’s allowing yourself to
become aware of your thoughts and feelings, even the
ugly ones. To let God be your best buddy. To share
with God everything, knowing you will not be judged
or condemned and, and this is the hard part — being
willing to look at your own “everything.” To reflect
together on the meaning of your life.
My vocation, at this point of my life, is just to
be as transparent as possible to myself, to my God and
to my friends. That will become more and more my gift to
you, my readers, in the hope you will be able to do the same – to just “hang
out with your God” in a safe and sacred relationship that will bring you to healing
and wholeness. I have absolute trust in Jesus’ words:
“The truth shall make you free!”
Oh, I understand that that may make you nervous. But don’t be afraid.
God loves you just the way you are right now – no matter what.
I assure you, beneath your brokenness – and we all have some of it –
you will find God and your own unique treasure, your gift for the world.
In summary then, I invite you to be a co-creator
with the Splendiferous Spirit of God of your
world and relationships. You and the Spirit of
God together can and will do things for God and
the world that will be beyond your fondest imaginings.
Have confidence in your gifts; recognize them
and take the opportunity to refine and develop
them. At every moment tune in to God’s spirit
for inspiration, encouragement, guidance and
strength. Yes, it will cost you something. But
you will gain your soul, your True Self.
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful,
and enkindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
and You shall renew the face of the earth.
May it be so. May it be so.
And now before you go here is the Veni Creator Spiritus from Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Click here.
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