Pontifications

Pontifications


Channel the spirit of Pentecost every day

posted by David Gibson

Pentecost.jpgTom Reese is a Jesuit priest and a political scientist of the Church whose balanced insights into the complex workings of the engine room of the Barque of St. Peter have made him an invaluable resource to journalists–and something of a bane to the Vatican (especially a fellow named Joseph Ratzinger). But I suspect for many of us, Tom’s punditry masks his pastoral side. That aspect emerged most poignantly, I think, in his homily for Pentecost this March. The feast was weeks ago, but Father Reese’s words endure, as does the Spirit. A taste:

Some people, like St. Paul, are knocked off their horses and experience the Spirit in dramatic and extraordinary ways. But for most of us, the Spirit is like the air we breathe, so common, so ever present that we don’t notice it.
I think we experience the Spirit every day of our lives; we just don’t recognize the presence of the Spirit.
For example, we have all had the experience of hurting someone or being hurt by someone close to us–a relative, a friend, a loved one. But we have also had the experience of forgiving and being forgiven: the tears, the regret, the extended hand, the hugs, the realization that all is not lost.
When we experience forgiveness, we experience the Spirit. “Receive the Holy Spirit, whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven.” Every time we forgive or are forgiven, at that instant we are experiencing the Spirit. This is true not only in the sacrament of reconciliation, but in our daily lives.

Read more below…


Readings: Acts 2: 1-11; I Corinthians 12: 3b-7, 12-13; John 20: 19-23
St. Luke in describing the first Christian Pentecost uses images that would remind his readers of the Jewish feast of Pentecost that celebrates the covenant between God and Israel. For example, Jesus ascending to heaven parallels Moses climbing Mt. Sinai. There is also “speaking in tongues,” and wind and fire, which some 1st-century Rabbis associated with the appearance of God at Mt. Sinai.
With this symbolic language, Luke is telling us that the Christian Community has a new covenant with God. They are the new people of God. And rather than receiving the law from Moses as the Jews did, Christians receive the Spirit from Jesus.
As Christians, we are people of the Spirit. But where do we experience the Spirit in our lives?
Some people, like St. Paul, are knocked off their horses and experience the Spirit in dramatic and extraordinary ways. But for most of us, the Spirit is like the air we breathe, so common, so ever present that we don’t notice it.
I think we experience the Spirit every day of our lives; we just don’t recognize the presence of the Spirit.
For example, we have all had the experience of hurting someone or being hurt by someone close to us–a relative, a friend, a loved one. But we have also had the experience of forgiving and being forgiven: the tears, the regret, the extended hand, the hugs, the realization that all is not lost.
When we experience forgiveness, we experience the Spirit. “Receive the Holy Spirit, whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven.” Every time we forgive or are forgiven, at that instant we are experiencing the Spirit. This is true not only in the sacrament of reconciliation, but in our daily lives.
The Spirit is present at other times as well: Every time we feel anger at injustice to the poor and powerless, the Spirit is moving within us. When we are moved to sympathy and generosity, the Spirit is alive within us. Every time a mother hugs her child, when rescue workers risk their lives, when an addict goes to an AA meeting, they are responding to the Spirit.
The employer and worker who speak and act against sexism and racism in the workplace, the politician who tells the truth, the scholar who searches for knowledge, all of them are experiencing the power of the Spirit. Every time a person smiles and says welcome, the Spirit is there.
When Catholic school children are indiscriminately slaughtered because they refuse to separate into Hutus and Tutsis, they are true martyrs, true witnesses to the Spirit. Every time we have the courage to testify to our Christian faith in words or deeds, the Spirit is acting within us. Every time we use our gifts for the common good. Every time we feel drawn to the community in the breaking of the bread, it is the Spirit pulling us.
Above all, when we experience love, we experience the Spirit. “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God.” We experience the Spirit when we love someone or are loved by someone. That is why the love of two people in marriage is a sacrament. We experience the Spirit when we experience an infinite thirst for love, for beauty, for goodness—an unquenchable thirst that can only be filled by God.
The letter to the Galatians tells us that the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
The Spirit is present in our lives, we just don’t pay attention.
The very thing that makes us most human, that makes us more than an animal, is the divine in us. Our ability to love, our thirst for truth and beauty, our very humanness is the spark of the Spirit within us.
What makes Christians unique is that we acknowledge the presence of the Spirit in our lives and in the world. We recognize this Spirit as a gift from God and we give praise and thanks to God for the gift of himself.
Just how important is this Spirit that we receive? In John’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples during the Last Supper that “it is good for you that I leave because after I go I will send the Spirit to you.”
The disciples did not want Jesus to leave. They said, “forget the Spirit, we want you to stick around.” I think our response today would be the same. If we could vote on whether to have the Spirit or to have Jesus present today, it would be no contest, the Spirit would loose the referendum. We don’t want the Pascal candle to leave the sanctuary. We don’t want Easter season to end. We don’t want ordinary time.
But Jesus says that it is better for us if he leaves so we can have the Spirit. Why is that?
I think the reason is that the Spirit is within us whereas Jesus, no matter how close we get to him, is always external. Or to put it another way, if we could choose between Jesus and the Spirit, we would be choosing between having Jesus or being Jesus. It is the Spirit that makes us Jesus, makes us the body of Christ. It is the Spirit that gives us life and fills us with love.
But the Spirit is not just for our own good, it is not just to make us happy and fulfilled. It is the Spirit that turns cowardly disciples into courageous missionaries who boldly preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth. It is the Spirit that is the source of the gifts that we must use for the common good. The Spirit unites us as a community of love, but it also sends us out on mission to preach the Gospel and build the kingdom of God. The Spirit teaches us that our own happiness, our own fulfillment is found in service and love of others.
As we continue to celebrate this Eucharist, we celebrate the presence of the Spirit who makes us the people of God, the body of Christ. We celebrate that the Spirit is still active today. We celebrate that we are all called to spread the Gospel by our example and by our witness in word and deed. And as we celebrate, we pray that we might be filled with the Spirit, a spirit of faithfulness, a Spirit of hope and a Spirit of love and service.
–Homily of Father Thomas J. Reese, SJ, on the Feast of Pentecost, March 2008



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David G

posted June 13, 2008 at 11:16 am


Same name as you…



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Anonymous

posted May 28, 2009 at 9:24 am


Beautiful! Thank you for sharing.



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