Saturday, May 30, 2009

Pentecost: Change and Empowerment

From the time many of us were children, we learned the petition "Come, Holy Spirit, ... renew the face of the earth."  Even today this petition is not unknown.  So what is it that we are asking?  Do we fully understand what the early Church was asking when the apostles and their successors were invoking the assistance of the spirit of the Holy Spirit?  Listen to what the Lord has said to the prophet Joel:

Thus says the LORD:
I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh.
Your sons and daughters shall prophesy,

your old men shall dream dreams,
your young men shall see visions;
even upon the servants and the handmaids,
in those days, I will pour out my spirit.
And I will work wonders in the heavens and on the earth,
blood, fire, and columns of smoke;
the sun will be turned to darkness,
and the moon to blood,
at the coming of the day of the LORD,
the great and terrible day.
Then everyone shall be rescued
who calls on the name of the LORD;
for on Mount Zion there shall be a remnant,
as the LORD has said,
and in Jerusalem survivors
whom the LORD shall call.

What Joel was told to preach, when considered carefully can be both frightening and something to run away from.  The "spirit" of the Holy Spirit as understood by our earliest Church ancestors was for the spirit of change, the spirit of empowerment.  This is what God wanted in the Church from its beginning ... like Jesus who came among us to bring the changes needed in humanity and who tried to empower those who would follow him in doing the Father's will.

Many today would want no part of this message.  Some might say it is just for the few, for the prophets -- who always had a hard time spreading the Good News.  But God makes clear, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are for all of us.  It is not solely for those who have completed Leadership 101.

Those who accept the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of the Spirit, are usually men and women who are alive with their faith.  They are passionate about the mission of the Church.  In a way they can be likened to a ram rod force that barrels through closed and bolted shut gates of the fortress of Barriers and Boundaries!

What the "spirit of the Spirit" seeks to fulfill in and through our lives is the process of building one community.  St. Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles, describes a challenging moment.  After hearing the preaching of the apostles following the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, Cornelius, a pagan, a Roman soldier, gathered his household and asked to be born in the spirit of the Spirit.  He was someone who was so different from the followers of Jesus.  But his action to petition entrance into the community of those who had been empowered by the Holy Spirit 
made clear what change this empowerment would mean.  Division would be removed:  no longer would there be a difference between Jew and Greek, between slaves and free people and so forth.  The spirit ruptured the close-mindedness of those who were disrupted by change.

How would our contemporaries deal with a world that does not include nationalism, racism, sexism, class bias or religious bigotry?  Most likely we can answer that question with a simple sentence:  Just look around!  How strong has been some of the reactions to a President willing to dialog with the religious factions that are creation so much havoc in our daily lives.  There is an answer to how frightening the empowerment and change of the spirit of the Spirit can be.

Look at the reality of capitalism in our nation, in the world.  It is a reality that pits ideas and powers against one another.  What would our world be like if dog-eat-dog capitalism collapsed completely and we lived in the experience of collaborative capitalism where the well-being of all humanity became the operative?  Imagine if all businesses worked with one another rather than against each other.  Just feel the resistant energy of such an idea if it you were to bring it into a discussion of your friends today.

What if we began to preach and to live this reality:  the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit are not the private property of anyone but powers God give to everyone for the good of all!!

Come, Holy Spirit,
enkindle in us
the fire of your Divine Love!!