The Solemnity of Pentecost – our churches are decorated in bright red, we hear familiar Readings (the Gospel during the day is the same as the Second Sunday of Easter) and we know that the Easter Season is coming to an end. The astute among us realize that it has been 50 days since Easter, so we are able to mark the passing of secular time as well as sacred time. Monday begins Ordinary Time and everything turns to green. Liturgically it is all so predictable.
Pentecost is – or at least should be – anything but predictable. The disciples huddled together in the upper room knew that Jesus was sending them the Advocate, but we do not know that they knew what that really meant. Could they have been awaiting the arrival of another teacher who would continue to guide, direct and instruct them? Even if they anticipated the arrival of the “Spirit” they could not have fully apprehended what that meant until the day of Pentecost.
The Holy Spirit always changes things – mixes things up – and forces us to look and act in ways that we do not expect. While we image the Spirit as a dove – peaceful and passive – the biblical presentation of the Spirit is anything but passive. The New Testament always associates the Spirit with power. The apostles, as we encounter them on the day of Pentecost, are not men who are passive and meek – they are men who are emboldened and straightforward.
Although we most often associate the Holy Spirit with specific moments – Confirmation, the epiclesis in the Eucharistic Prayer or the Charismatic Renewal – the Holy Spirit cannot be confined to any specific place or time. The third person of the Blessed Trinity is not often understood in personal terms. We know the Father and the Son, these are familiar and familial terms, but the Spirit lacks the same sense of identification. The Spirit is no less a person than are the Father and the Son, and yet understanding the Spirit as a person is outside of our religious imagination.
The Holy Spirit, who is always with the Church and present with those who call upon him, is free to move as he wills, where he wills, and perhaps in whatever form he wills. While the Spirit does not become incarnate as does the Son, the Spirit is and must be present and active in the world at all times and everywhere.
In very real ways we tend to block the Spirit’s work in the world. We can see that in those who resist the impetus to growth in the Church. We see it in those who refuse to surrender to the promptings of the Spirit in their lives, deadening the Spirit through sin and the allurements of the world. We see it in those who prefer law to mercy, shunning to reconciliation, war to peace.
Like the apostles on that first Pentecost, we cannot expect to predict where, how, or even when, the Holy Spirit will move within us, within the Church, or within the world. What we need to be is open to those promptings, and pray always that the Spirit will be made manifest in our lives.
While we all say quite faithfully the three pillar prayers of the Church – Our Father¸ Hail Mary, and Glory Be – we ought to add the prayer for the Invocation of the Holy Spirit to our regular routine. We pray to the Spirit for the power of discernment and so that we might receive and exercise those gifts that the Holy Spirit wishes to bestow upon us. As through the power of the Spirit that the face of the earth is to be renewed, it is we who have to take up the task and, prompted and guided by the Spirit, accomplish the work that he has given us.
June 11 – First we must have a relationship with the Trinity before we can understand the Trinity
This week we reflect on the Trinity. This feast follows Pentecost as it is then, with the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, that the revelation of God as the Trinity is complete. Now we know what has been since the beginning that, God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, known in three ways but singularly one: One God in three persons.
We realize that to fully understand or adequately explain the Trinity is beyond human ability, and that it is only through the prompting of the Holy Spirit that we can even begin to apprehend this reality. Nonetheless we get a glimpse of the Trinity in the workings of daily life. We know that wherever there are two persons there is always a mysterious and ever present third – the dynamics of the relationship itself. As God is a community of persons, the Trinity is then the very essence of relationship itself. We are called, as we see in the dialogue between God and Moses in the First Reading, to enter into a relationship with God. In a formal way this relationship is a covenant; a covenant that is expressed in various ways throughout the history of Israel, and inaugurated anew in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. More particularly, each of us is also known by God (every hair on our heads is numbered) and that being known is the call to a personal relationship as well.
The God who creates us loves us and calls us to salvation. Once we come into the presence of Christ we are illuminated by his light. The saving act of Christ is not for condemnation but for life, so that we might have a share in eternal life. Though some will, after being exposed to the light, choose to reject that life and dwell in the darkness, they have still seen the light and they define their lives in relationship to the light. The Gospel passage reminds us of what is also known in the Law of the Israelites: that each person must choose between life and death, light and darkness, the Kingdom of God and the world.
We exercise our faith in this dynamic tension, and yes, this is always challenging. While we bask in the light, there is a lure to the darkness. While it can be easy to succumb to the temptation that the world places before us, we are able to overcome death, darkness, and the world when we remember the warmth and majesty of life, light, and the Kingdom of God.
We who are baptized into the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – have entered into the covenant with God and are on the path to eternal life. Hence, we are children of the light and not of the darkness. The intimacy of the relationship between Moses and God provides the example for the relationship between oneself and God. The implications of this relationship demand that we act with the same love and mercy that God shows to us. It is through our lives of mercy, love, harmony and peace with one another that love of God is continually made present in the world.
As we reflect on the meaning of the Trinity, we do so conscious that while the Trinity might stand as a theological abstraction, the Trinity is the reality of our personal relationship with God, and that to enter into that relationship provides a concrete yet spiritual depth of understanding of the Trinity for us.
Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.[[In-content Ad]]