Today we celebrate the feast of Pentecost, the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to send down the Holy Spirit after his ascension. At age twelve, Jesus told the temple elders that Isaiah’s prophecy had been fulfilled in him.
“The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners;” (Is. 61:1 NRSV).
This is the same Spirit that descended upon the disciples at Pentecost, fifty days after Easter.
Today the Church commemorates Jesus’ bequest to all of us, its members. Also on this day, many churches celebrate the sacrament of confirmation, a re-commitment to our faith in Jesus Christ and to his mission. Today’s readings from the Acts of the Apostles tell of the dramatic entrance of the Holy Spirit into the lives of a people who have been waiting and praying for the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise. The charismatic moment comes with the Holy Spirit bursting forth like the roaring wind and dispersing tongues as of fire upon those in the room who begin to speak in languages comprehensible to all present. There is energy and there is life. Yet, the world where my feet stand presents a contrasting, shadowy picture, an almost total eclipse of life. This is the experience of real people with real-life problems and longing for the coming of Jesus’ liberating Holy Spirit.
In 2015, I shared a reflection in the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns NewsNotes about the struggles of the Zimbabwean people. The reflection featured a picture of my niece carrying a bucket of water from a well into the house. In that picture, she is smiling peacefully. But deep in her heart, she knows the value of every drop of the water that she is carrying, and that every drop is a source of life. At the time, she was completing her studies at the University of Zimbabwe. I met her again in June of 2022 after she had completed her studies. She was now working in a job unrelated to her field of studies because she could not find employment. My niece got married and was expecting the arrival of her baby girl in about a month.
On 23 April, three weeks after Easter and approximately a month and a half before Pentecost, both the mother and the unborn baby died due to complications of pregnancy. When I heard the news, my heart froze and my whole body ached. I felt dispirited and in darkness. I longed to hear Jesus’ consoling words, “Peace be with you” but even the voice of God fell silent. Then I question my ability to place myself in the scene in which I hear the Holy Spirit entering the room [my heart] as “the noise like a strong driving wind” and “the tongues as of fire” when deep inside I feel withdrawn and cold. Then I remember that Ignatian spirituality is about finding God in everything, and even at times like this when the Holy Spirit is there present renewing my heart and renewing Jesus’ Holy Spirit within me, the same Jesus who in today’s gospel of Saint John, stands in the midst of the disciples who are enclosed in a room “for fear of the Jews.”
Strong negative emotions create a cold, dark, tomb-like atmosphere that perpetuates feelings of relentless fear and defeat. But Jesus who is in all things is also present in moments of darkness and confusion and says “Peace be with you.” At the same time, he shows me the scars on his hands and his side, reminders of a battle fought and won. As Jesus breathed new life upon his disciples at Pentecost, he also infuses his Holy Spirit as a balm that heals and unites the human spirit with the Holy Trinity, to God.
My recent losses have taught me to value what really matters in life that is, adherence to God through the Holy Spirit who is always there even when I am not conscious of that graced presence. Therefore, God suffers and also rejoices with me, and also reminds me of the peace and stillness that resides in the center of the storm. It is from that Center that God speaks to me words of peace as God missions me to a world in need of healing.
COME HOLY SPIRIT, CREATOR COME!