Sunday, May 15, 2016
In our last blog, we talked about the Feast of the Ascension.
After Jesus left the disciples and ascended into heaven, they were cowering behind locked doors,
despondent, worried, fearful, bewildered, devastated.
“[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 which 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.)
“In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters.”
“When the day of Pentecost came it found the brethren gathered in one place. Suddenly from up in the sky there was a noise like a strong driving wind.”
The Holy Spirit is associated with that wind. The wind that blows where it wills. The wind that whirred around that Jerusalem square that Pentecost morning, stirred things up and got the disciples moving.
The word for “wind” in Hebrew is “Ruah” — the same as the word for “breath.”
One night as I was sitting in my chair and just paid attention to my breathing as I often do.
I imagined that the Holy Spirit was breath entering me, and when I exhaled, I was breathing out the Holy Spirit as well.
What a wonderful reality is our breath. Breath is life itself. No breath, no life in the body.
The mighty wind of Pentecost stirred things up. And the church was born. The apostles and the others who were part of their company, including the women, were given enthusiasm. No longer afraid, they courageously preached the message that Jesus established a new order for people’s lives. They began gathering the church. The Acts of the Apostles is in effect the gospel of the Holy Spirit.
In the beginning of scripture, there is a story about the tower of Babel, a story that tries to explain why there are so many different languages on the earth that we cannot understand each other, so much discord, so much disharmony.
The story has God confusing the languages of people at Babel (Gen. 11: 1-9) and from that day onward they were scattered.
On the day of Pentecost the opposite happened. People were gathered together. Parthians and Medes and Elamites; people from Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia and Egypt — all heard the apostles speaking to them in their own languages.
On the day of my ordination, I was filled with enthusiasm. It was day before Pentecost, May 24, 1969.
I was reminded of this prophecy of Joel:
“I will pour out my spirit upon all humankind.
Your sons and daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
your young men shall see visions.
Even upon the servants and handmaids,
in those days, I will pour out my spirit.” Joel 2:28, 29)
These were the days immediately following the Second Vatican Council. There was a lot of enthusiasm all over the Church. Those of us who were young, had wonderful opportunities to serve.
The enthusiasm that poured onto me and into me lasted the first full three years of my priesthood. The Spirit really touched my ministry, as he did with another priest who was ordained the same day as me.
Nine years later, the opposite happened. My life crashed in upon me. And I was reminded of still another scripture about the Spirit — the prophecy of the dry bones.
“Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord:” See I will bring spirit into you that you may come to life again.
Breathe into these slain, O Spirit that they may come to life.” (Ezekiel 37: 1)
That’s what Pope Francis is trying to do. Breathe new life into the Church The Holy Spirit will draw the church together in a new way!
~ ~ ~ ~
There is still another thing to note from the Pentecost story. A tongue of fire rested individually on the heads of each person. The Spirit of God has a special relationship with each of us. The Spirit will enliven us according to the gifts and talents of each one.
So this Holy Spirit does wondrous things!
The Spirit is the source of inspiration for all who would design and create.
“There are different gifts but the same Spirit; there are different ministries, but the same Lord;
there are different works but the same God who accomplishes all of them in every one.
To each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
The body is one and has many members, many though they are, are one body; and so it is with Christ.
It was in one Spirit that all of us, whether Jew or Greek, slave or free, were baptized into the one body.
All of us have been given to drink of the one Spirit.” (I Cor. 12)
In the Gospel today from John (there are two choices; this is the second option), Jesus says to his disciples:
If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
And I will ask the Father,
and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always. (John 14: 15-16)
Jesus did not leave us to struggle with the Christian life alone. He would send us another Helper. According to our Scripture scholar-friend William Barclay the Greek word is parakletos.
(When I was first taught that word in catechism class and my Mom asked me what I learnt that day, I said, “The Holy Spirit was a parakeet.”)
The Authorized Version, renders it Comforter, but it really means someone who is called in to give witness in a court of law in one’s favor ~ an Advocate. Always a paracletos is someone called in to help in time of trouble or need. Comforter was once a good translation; the word comes from the Latin fortis which means brave, and a comforter was someone who enabled some dispirited person to be brave. These days comfort mostly has to do with sympathizing with someone with us when we are sad. So what Jesus is saying is: ” I am setting you a hard task, and I am send you out on a very difficult engagement. But I am going to send you someone, the parakletos, who will guide you as to what to do and to enable you to do it.” (Barclay / Gospel of John / vol 2 / p. 166.)
The Spirit of God is as close to us as our own breath. I have trained myself to become conscious of my breathing often each day. So too can we train ourselves to be conscious of the Holy Spirit from moment to moment.
May we celebrate today the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives, in the Church, in our world and in, indeed, all of creation!
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.
Now, here’s the ancient Sequence for the Feast ~ or if you will, a poem that occurs within the Mass . . .
Come, Holy Spirit, come!
And from your celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine!
Come, Father of the poor!
Come, source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine.
You, of comforters the best;
You, the soul’s most welcome guest;
Sweet refreshment here below;
In our labor, rest most sweet;
Grateful coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.
O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of yours,
And our inmost being fill!
Where you are not, we have naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.
Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:
Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.
On the faithful, who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gift descend;
Give them virtue’s sure reward;
Give them your salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end.
And before you go, here is the haunting chant melody “Veni Creator Spiritus” and the English “Come Holy Ghost.” Click here. Be sure to enter full screen. There are many images of Pentecost in art displayed there.
And here are all of today’s Mass readings. Click here.
Acknowledgment:William Barclay / The Daily Study Bible Series / the Gospel of John – Volume 2 – Revised Edition / The Westminster Press: Philadelphia 1975 (pp. 166-7.)