Pentecost Sunday, Year B
- The Spirit of the Lord fills the whole world (Wis. 1:7)
Where is the Holy Spirit? Like the wind, she blows where she wills, but I confess, I cannot hear the sound she makes, nor do I know where she comes from or where she goes.
Where will I find the one who will assure me that God is really with us and that we believers in Christ have access to the Father in the one Spirit? Where is she, the one who will confirm me in the faith that professes that Pentecost is the fulfillment of Christ’s irrevocable promise to be with us always till the end of the age? Where is the Advocate who will always be with me and will make present both the Father, from whom she proceeds, and Jesus, to whom she testifies eloquently? I seek, yes, the Spirit of truth who will guide me to all truth, even to that which I cannot bear yet, and will make me see with my own eyes, contemplate, and touch with my own hands the reality that God sent his only Son, who became flesh not for thirty-three years but for all time (cf. Louis Evely, That Man Is You, chapter 6). I seek the one who at once vivifies, sanctifies, strengthens, enriches, unifies, and renews, and who will fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the Incarnation of the Word on behalf of the church, lacking because, as St. Augustine suggested, my contribution is still missing (cf. Col. 1:24; Lumen Gentium 4).
Surely, the Spirit will be present in such fascinating and awesome theophanies as those recounted in the Old Testament, and I have no doubt that I will meet her if someday I am given the opportunity to witness them. And if I see those helped by the Spirit accomplish amazing works and heroic deeds that may well be greater, as Jesus said, than those he did himself, I do not think I will have any problem recognizing in them the Spirit’s presence. But given the ordinary life that I lead, in it too I should find the Spirit, if indeed the work of the Incarnation must be continued and completed in my own flesh.
The fact is that even the Benedictine monastic spirituality teaches that one encounters Christ above all in the routine of daily life (cf. Christopher Ruddy’s “Pope and Abbot,” in the May 22, 2006 issue of America). “Rarely dramatic, it is a deep life, grounded in steady, prayerful attentiveness to God and in hospitable community,” where moderation goes hand in hand with zeal, so that there the strong find something to yearn for and the weak have nothing to run away from.
Agreeing apparently with this Benedictine teaching was St. Vincent de Paul—a simple and homely saint, in the words of Jacques Delarue. He experienced neither ecstasies nor miracles, left no great written works, but strove to live out humbly and faithfully at a human level, on our level, the divine mission received from his Savior. Points out our saint: “Perfection does not lie in ecstasies, but in doing well the will of God. ... If it is said in Holy Scripture that he who cleaves to God is made one spirit with him then, I ask you, what man cleaves more closely to God than he who does nothing but the will of that same God?” Where God’s will is done, there is the Holy Spirit.
It is not God’s will, in St. Vincent’s understanding, that our exuberance be so extreme that it impairs or ruins our health, even though, admittedly, God has commanded us to love with all our heart and with all our strength. Virtue always lies in the happy medium. He adds:
- We must allow for the needs of nature and adapt ourselves to it.
- God so desires it; he is so good and so just that he asks no
- more; he is well enough acquainted with our wretchedness,
- he has pity on it and, in his mercy, he makes up for what we lack.
The same idea is found also in a letter of his to St. Louise de Marillac. The letter reads in part: “I put my trust in God and certainly not in my preparation, nor in all my activities; and with all my heart I wish you to do the same, since the throne of God’s goodness and mercies is built on the foundation of our wretchedness.” Needless to say, then, where there is recognition of human weakness along with trust in God’s grace, there is the action of the Holy Spirit.
And if grace abounds even more where sin increases, the breath of the Holy Spirit must be even more palpable where there are repentance and forgiveness. Without these, neither union nor the common good is attainable, no communion is possible. But where there is genuine communion, there the Spirit is surely found also, producing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Communion is possible ultimately because Jesus, lifted up from the earth, draws everyone to himself. There on the cross is fully present, then, the Holy Spirit. When the hardships and clouds of life take my attention away from the Spirit’s provident presence, I must fix my glance on the cross, so that I may realize that God reveals himself in hardships too and in the clouds, and that these do not indicate God’s absence. When things are not going well, far be it from me, then, to ask, “Is the Lord in our midst or not?”—the question the Israelites asked, when dying of thirst in the desert, they found no water for them to drink (Ex. 17:1-7).
I really ought to be very alert and on the lookout, for the Spirit turns up in the most unexpected places.