In our first reading Luke’s tells us what happened to the early Christian church on the Jewish feast day called Pentecost. Imagine being gathered together with fellow believers to praise and thank God in the breaking of the bread. All knew that Jesus had returned to his father. They were told they were to wait for another gift from God, the Holy Spirit who would keep fresh in their minds the things that Jesus said and did.
And suddenly we hear a sound as of a violent wind blowing, filling the whole house. People who lived through a tornado often describe it as the sound of a roaring train passing through. It must be frightening and confusing. You are at the mercy of the elements. Luke then tells of strange tongues of fire settling gently on all present and something deep within them happened. They were changed, transformed, emboldened. They came to see as never before who Jesus was and what his passion, death and resurrection were all about and they were driven out into the streets compelled to tell others all about Jesus the crucified, Jesus the risen one.
Each one of us received the Holy Spirit at our Baptism when through the pouring of water and the saying of the words, ‘I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’ the Holy Spirit was poured into our very being giving each of us the boldness to call God “Father’. The gift of the Spirit was strengthened and renewed when we were anointed by the Bishop and given the gifts of the Spirit – wisdom, understanding, courage, reverence, right judgement, knowledge and wonder and awe. These gifts are meant to help live lives as faithful followers of Christ in the face of life styles and values that would have us live our lives as if God did not exist. The gifts wisdom and understanding sensitize us to wrongs that are so much a part of today’s society, today’s world; the intolerance and vindictiveness of religious fanatics who blow up mosques and churches and slaughter those who do not see God as they see God. The gifts of right judgement and knowledge help us recognize the sins against justice that affect the lives of men and women who struggle to raise a family on an unfair minimum wage or holding down two if not three part time jobs. The gifts of reverence, wonder and awe help us realize how misguided our present government’s denial and resistance to acknowledge the environmental and ecological crises the world community faces. The question for each one of is, are this gifts operative in the daily living of our lives? Do we support movements that call for justice for the poor or justice for planet Earth?
Do you feel or are you aware of the presence of the action of the Holy Spirit in your life? We might say that Pentecost was a pretty violent experience in the lives of the men and women who were there in that room behind locked doors. After their transforming experience of being seized by the Holy Spirit they burst out of that room, gifted with many tongues and proclaimed to all God’s deeds of power.
There are men and women who are in the charismatic movement who sometimes experience the wonder of that first Pentecost, who pray in the Spirit or speak in tongues. I’m not one of them. I survive with the conviction that the Holy Spirit works in most of our lives by nudging us, a little push now and then to be more patient, kind or understanding towards spouses, children. Maybe we’re nudged to make a phone call, drop a note, or make a visit to a house bound friend. Maybe we are touched by the idea to pray for people with cancer, especially children. Maybe we are nudged toward a deeper consciousness of the unfairness and desperation that darkens the lives of so many people. Maybe the Holy Spirit pokes us to think about the desperation of the men, women and children in the refugee camps in the Middle East or the coast of Italy. I like to think this is how the Holy Spirit is alive and well in us in the ordinary living of our ordinary lives.
We are good people but sometimes we get distracted by the soap operas of our lives that we forget the important things, the important people.
In Paul’s letter to the Galatians he tells of the fruits of the flesh; the fruits of those who live only for themselves, people who will not inherit the kingdom of God, they are fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy anger, quarrels and factions. Paul compares these to the fruit of the Spirit, people who respond to the nudges of the Spirit, they are; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self- control. If these are in our lives then the Holy Spirit is with us.
I read this recently, ‘Why do we not act like people who have God within us? Well, like anything planted so deep, the Spirit’s presence must be given a lot of time to make its way into our words, our actions, our deeds. Whenever we find patches of charity or joy in ourselves, or patience and kindness, or the ability to endure hardships and injuries; when we are tempted toward mildness and modesty, then we can be sure that the Holy Spirit is at work within us.’
Maybe we have to say to ourselves – be patient, the Spirit is not finished with me yet.