Come Holy Spirit
This Feast of Pentecost was originally a Jewish Feast – Shevuot, the Feast of the Weeks. It occurred five days after Passover, and commemorated the giving of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai. Now, for us it commemorates the giving of the Holy Spirit.
Today is considered the birthday of the Church. It is the day when the infant Church had to stand on it sown two feet. While Jesus ascended to Heaven, He did not abandon us but promised that the Holy Spirit would be with us.
The Sprit comes in different guises. As the First Reading points out, the Spirit comes
in the form of wind, fire – even noise. The Apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit. We often
pray: “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.” How can this happen for us in a busy and demanding world?
What we can observe about the Apostles is that they were listening intently for something to happen. We need silence. The Apostles had found a place. In our busy, noisy world, we need to create quiet places and spaces.
The Gospel is suggesting we do just that. We are to create a place; a home for the Spirit in our lives: “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our home with him.” Much hinges on our ability to be still and to listen with an open mind and an open heart. The Holy Spirit doesn’t always come as a powerful, noisy wind from heaven, or like blazing tongues of fire, but in a gentle breeze and a spark of inspiration.
“Come Holy Spirit, Creator Blest / And in our hearts take up thy rest.” Amen
Have you ever watched a TED Talk? There are thousands available to view online. The powerful talks are generally less than 18 minutes long and cover a huge range of topics, from science to business to social and global issues. There are talks in more than 110 languages, and they are used in schools, businesses and many other settings, to educate, motivate, and open minds. While the speakers come from a variety of backgrounds, the one thing they have in common is their ability to communicate. For every talk I’ve listened to, the speaker has the audience in the palm of their hand. They are gifted communicators, with a passion for a particular subject, and the ability to draw their listeners in.
We often hear that in order to be a good communicator, we have to learn how to speak another person’s language. On the day of Pentecost, when the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit, each of the people gathered heard them speaking in his or her own language. The ability to communicate and to be understood was the first gift they received from the Holy Spirit. Today, we need the gift of communication more than ever. There are times when we have the opportunity to share our faith, or to witness to others in the way we live our faith. We might feel that we struggle to share our faith in a way that others can understand. In order to meet people where they are, we first need to ‘speak their language’ – to know them, listen to them, and recognize God’s presence in them. The Spirit that came upon the early believers is the same Spirit that guides us today.
Jesus comes into a room full of fear. Sometimes it is fear itself that makes us close the door on others and on God. Occasionally a person comes along with the gift of breaking through our closed doors, a person who comes to be with us in our fears. Do we have memories of people getting through to us and being with us despite our closed doors? Who has brought us peace in a time of anxiety?
Jesus showed his wounds to his friends. Moments of grace can occur when another person shows us their vulnerable side, or when we do so with them. Let our memories speak of such experiences to us.
As the Father sent me, so am I sending you. This evokes images of receiving and handing on the things that give life: values, meaning, sense of purpose, love. Who are the people who have given us life by what they handed on to us? To whom have we handed on what is life-giving?
In our tradition, the final verse reminds us of the Sacrament of Reconciliation but its meaning is broader than that. Spirit-filled people are people who forgive. We might like to recall memories of when we have forgiven, or retained, another’s sins. What difference has it made to us and others when we forgave rather than held sins against others?