Russell Pollitt SJ The sexual abuse crisis that rocked the Catholic Church worldwide has been one of the most disillusioning things I have had to face as a priest. It...
Perhaps the best-known prayer of and for the Holy Spirit includes the words send forth your Spirit and (we) shall be created and you will renew the face of the earth. At once it is vital to recall the basic theme of last week’s reflection about the Ascension being the feast of the multiplication of Jesus’ presence, and how we are called to multiply this presence in our world.
Then we go backwards and link that theme with the words which appear with bold print in today’s opening paragraph. At once we should reflect on the essential connection between the message and meaning of the Ascension with the arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. In this celebration we acknowledge the Holy Spirit’s more immediate and personal activity with our involvement in the development of the Father’s plan which the ministry of the Church is called to serve. The Spirit creates within each one of us the ability and willingness to multiply the presence of Jesus in our worlds. The result is the renewal of the face of the earth.
Now I share with you something I read a few days ago. The Spirit leads us to think of things other than our own survival and our preoccupation with it. In addition the Spirit seeks to widen our vision and learn from others, as well as adapt to new realities.
Against this insight, words from TODAY’S PSALM [104 or 103] present us with both cause for thanksgiving as well as inspiration – “Bless the Lord, my soul! Lord my God how great you are. How many are your works. … May the Lord rejoice in his works! May my thoughts be pleasing to him.” Do I really and honestly praise (bless) my God and acknowledge his greatness in his actions and activities? Do I see myself as an essential part of his great works, and accept that my own personal effort in multiplying his presence enables my Lord to rejoice in me? All of this starts with a basic recipe. My thoughts must be pleasing to him.
I should always look further, deeper and beyond the immediate words of scriptural texts in order to discern a richer, more personal, message and truth that will both inform and challenge me. At once let us face two facts clearly presented by TODAY’S FIRST READING [ACTS 2: 1 – 11]. Firstly, we read that they “began to speak … as the Spirit gave them utterance.” No Christian should opt out of the fact that the Spirit speaks not only to the Church but also to every individual. It follows, then, that the Spirit, by giving utterance, both indicates and empowers each one of us to act in a manner which benefits and contributes to multiplication of Jesus’ presence in the world. It is impossible to believe that each of the disciples who began to speak as the Spirit gave them utterance pronounced identical words in precisely the same manner. Yet, their joint, PERSONAL efforts and individual emphasis truthfully contributed to the growth and development of the entire body of believers.
We must, however, ensure that our individual thoughts are pleasing to the Lord – not merely to us. I should never presume that what I regard as a brilliant idea is, in fact and truth, pleasing to the Lord. We must each subject ourselves to a process of discernment. Otherwise, we run the danger of becoming loose canons firing indiscriminately. Look at TODAY’S SECOND READING [GALATIANS 5: 16 – 25] where Paul speaks of the destructive power of “enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit (and) envy.”
So we arrive at TODAY’S GOSPEL [JOHN 15: 26 – 27, 16: 12 – 15]. In the context of what we have been saying the important verses are “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” Indeed, there are many things which we still have to hear – we are incapable of accepting all of it at the same time. We need to be guided slowly and gradually – and accept that this process is often painful and difficult.
The Holy Spirit is the best guide to knowing “what is mine.” However, we remain in a permanent state learning how really great the Lord our God is.