“If we live in the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit”
Did you ever experience an event in your life that left you breathless and unable to explain the joy and excitement it brought you? Maybe it was a journey to a foreign country, a special surprise party, the reception of a most unusual gift. To this day you cannot recount the meaning of this event in tangible words.
As we hear the account of the Pentecost event today, we hear of a similar joy. Those who were there speak of hearing “a noise like a strong wind” followed by the appearance of “tongues as of fire”. The entrance of the Spirit among them was described in ways that words could not accurately describe. Then the disciples spoke in a new language that everyone could understand.
Why do we not have a similar experience when we receive the effects of Baptism and Confirmation in our lives? Why is there not an earth shaking experience for us to identify with as a moment of the Spirit’s breaking into our lives? It is not the external excitement or celebration that identifies the Spirit’s presence, but something deep within that marks the gift of the Spirit in us. For this reason, St. Augustine reveals three insights about the Holy Spirit. While we live in a time when individuals and communities suffer from an absence of unity and cohesion, these insights will help us reach the depth and scope of our receiving the presence of the Spirit within and among us.
The Holy Spirit, Augustine says, is the uniting force between the Father and the Son, he is the bond of unity in the Trinity: a unity as communion, a unity as abiding love and a unity as giving and gift. How does this communion, love and gift effect us?
UNITY AS COMMUNION: The Spirit shares the same life as the Father and the Son. It is in the constant sharing and communicating with each other that each finds his glory and power. The Father pours himself into his Son and the Son responds with a longing to serve the Father. The Spirit brings the love necessary to empower this perfect relationship of harmony and unity.
If we are to experience the Holy Spirit in our time, we need to enter that communion of love. Each one of us has the capacity of the Spirit within us to enter into a deep relationship with God and with this community, the Church. We need to discover the full communication that can exist among us because of our common longing for God. Our lives together as families and communtes of faith are not about what pleases us, but about what is the pleasure of God for us. God is pouring out his deepest care for us and ours is to reflect that care by the way we come together with a desire to serve, to complete our unity in the experience of community. We communicate with God and each other when we pray together, serve one another, and together strive to heal our society with an energy that respects and sustains God’s life among us. Everything that we do to build up communion, community, communication treating each other with equal dignity is productive to allowing the Spirit to become that bond of unity in our lives. The beauty of our communion is Spirit.
UNITY IN LOVE. The Holy Spirit is abiding love. The Holy Spirit makes us remain in God and God in us. Love is the sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit. Ideas and plans that do not reflect love or find their foundation in the good of all are not the work of love. The task of true love is to abide. True love holds on to, identifies with, empowers, sustains and gives direction. The love of the Spirit dispels uncertainty, overcomes fear, draws into unity.
When the Holy Spirit enters upon us, the building up of our mutual communion is foremost in our hearts. We strive to let go of all that removes the urgency of caring and reaching to each other in good times and in bad. We rejoice with each other’s good and we strive to fill what is missing in each one’s limit and weakness. Love rushes in to fill the void and rejoices in the unity created by our common works for the healing of community and society. True loves draws us into a unity that abides. The wonder of our love is Spirit. How unconditional is our love for each other?
UNITY OF GIFT. St. Thomas Aquinas says that the proper name of the Holy Spirit is GIFT. God is the deepest spring that satisfies our greatest longings. It is the essence of God to pour himself out for the sake of the other. The Father is eternally giving himself to his Son and the Son is eternally giving himself to the Father. The Spirit is the endless outpouring of this mutual reaching for perfect unity.
For this reason, Jesus gave himself to us so that we might in his dying and rising enter this perfect unity by the gift of himself. Whatever gift we make of ourselves for the good each and for the perfection of God’s presence among us is work of the Spirit. Our ministries, our outpouring of prayer, our service to the needs of humanity, our communication of faith and truth, these are all the efforts that work toward the unity of love and the perfect unity of our lives in God. The gift of ourselves to one another is Spirit. How complete is our gift of self for the good of all?
We may look for the wondrous display of fireworks, but the sun of God’s love shines each day upon all who reflect its glow. We may listen for thunderous explosion of sound to awaken our deepest passion, but the quiet silence of healing grace remains as the unchanging manifestation of God’s peace, kindness, joy, care, courage and patience that sparks the true sense of community in those who seek a lasting quality in a healthy relationship of love.
Owning community, building ourselves upon love and becoming gift-presence in varied needs is the way in which we reflect our unity in the Spirit with God. This is the amazing grace of Pentecost. Thus may it be said of us what was said of the disciple in that first Pentecost event: “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke of the marvels of God. Alleluia.”