Pentecost: May 27
Acts 2:1-11, 1 Cor 12:3-13 or Gal 5:16-25, Jn 20:19-23 or Jn 15:26- 27, 16:12-16
A friend of mine told me recently that he had a hard time including the Holy Spirit into his prayer life. He had no problem with the Father and Jesus the Son, and even Mary. They fit right in. But the Spirit baffled him at times, so he asked what could I tell him about the Holy Spirit.
Talk about being put on the spot. What can you say about a spirit, especially THE Spirit?
By its very nature, a spirit is immaterial, but that does not mean the spirit is unreal.
In the reading from Acts today, the Spirit comes as a mighty wind and tongues of fire. As a result, the people gathered in that locked room were “filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.”
The wind and the fire impelled the believers out onto the streets of Jerusalem where there were pilgrims from many nations. The rest is history.
So we do recognize the effects of the Spirit on the early Christians. But how does that same Spirit work in our lives? Let us count the ways.
Obviously, the Spirit is at work in the church in a variety of ways, as during the sacramental celebrations, baptisms, Mass, reconciliation and so on. Even when our liturgies are slow moving and ponderous, the Spirit strikes.
I have presided at times at liturgies when I thought things were pretty dull, sometimes because of my failure to provide an appropriate spark as the main celebrant. And then, at the door of church after Mass, someone invariably comes by and sincerely thanks me for that liturgy and for my words. I am always surprised.
My old Irish pastor had a line for that moment and I use it often: “It may not be true, but it certainly is nice to hear.”
The Spirit is at work in the minds and hearts of the people to whom I offer the Sacred Host at Mass; I always look into their eyes and I see Spirit. I see it at family gatherings; I feel the Spirit while I stroll our beautiful grounds at the seminary.
Sometimes I just hear the Spirit in birdsong and music, even, would you believe, rock and roll. Spirit abounds at weddings and birthdays, at funerals and during visits to the sick, and at graduations when the children walk so tall and the parents are so proud.
My Spirit-list could go on. How about you? Tell me your God-moments when the Divine Spirit has been active in your lives.
Earlier, I mentioned my friend who wanted more data on the Spirit. We talked and shared and explored for a while, and then he admitted he had known the Spirit all along, even though he didn’t always put a name to Spirit.
The Spirit is one more loving aspect of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But we’ll take up the Trinity next week, won’t we? I’m already looking forward to that feast.
Feast of the Most Holy Trinity: June 3
Dt 4:32-40, Rom 8:14-17, Mt 28:16-20
There is a God. This I believe. This God takes a personal interest in all of us. How do we know that? Because the Bible and Jesus tell us so.
This God awaits a return on his love. But God does not force a return. God has granted free will to all of us, the ultimate sign of trust.
We are thus free to say “yes” or “no” to God. What kind of Creator God is this who leaves us free to reject his love?
Some few people, I think, wish we didn’t have free will. Then we would always do the right thing, and we would not need to be afraid of judgment because there’d be no sin.
And the world would be a better place, even if a little dull. So they think.
But, really, what kind of God is this? Full of paradoxes for one thing. Not always predictable — check that — hardly ever predictable. His ways are not our ways, as the Good Book says.
So inexpressible is God, yet the church teaches God is Father, Son and Spirit. Three distinct persons in one divine nature.
St. Patrick suggested a three leaf shamrock as an imaginative metaphor for God. But, as the saying goes, every analogy limps. And, surely, every human way of speaking about God limps.
So we have one God with one distinct divine nature and yet three persons. Then, we have to remind ourselves that there are two natures in God — one divine as we have said, and one human nature because Jesus Christ, the second person of this Trinity also has a human nature.
Are we getting too complicated? One God, three divine persons, two natures. Sounds suspiciously like a mathematics lesson.
Think of your family as another metaphor: Father and mother in love, and the child as the “spirit” or fruit of that love. You see how we struggle to take God in. In the end, we have to be content with our simple human questions and less than adequate answers.
One thing we are sure of: God is love and we who abide in love abide in God and God in us. Human love is something we can understand.
Will we ever come close to fully understanding divine love, the very essence of God? One day we shall — and that’s a day to look forward to with all our being.
O’Malley is a faculty member of the University of St. Mary of the Lake, former vicar for priests and pastor emeritus of St. Celestine Parish.