Veni, Sancte Spiritus, Come Holy Spirit, we pray. How does the Holy Spirit come? In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles He comes through driving wind and tongues of fire. In the Gospel of John, He comes in the peaceful breath of our Lord.
The dove is often associated with the Spirit. I read that In the Dark Ages that lasted some 600 years beginning in the 5th century, life for the people was indeed dark, drab and tenuous. Scholars tell us that one of the few uplifting elements of their lives was the Church which gave them hope. In at least one church on Pentecost at the appropriate time, doves were released through small doors in the ceiling as a symbol of the presence of the Holy Spirit, as the choir sang whooshing sounds trying to mimic the wind and buckets of rose petals were showered on the people symbolizing tongues of fire. Maybe we should do something like that to remind us that the Holy Spirit has already come and is a presence of hope in our day which has its own darkness.
If we cannot see the Holy Spirit, how can we know that his presence is truly with us? I asked some 2nd graders how they knew the wind exists. They answered that they see the trees bend, the clouds move, they feel the chill. We know the wind is there by seeing the results of its power, strongly present here in South Dakota. We know the Holy Spirit is present by noticing the results of the Spirit’s power.
St. Paul in the reading from Corinthians reminds us that all of us are given talents but for differing roles, that all of us are called to discover how God has blessed us and to use our blessings to build up Christ’s Church. Some call Pentecost the birthday of the Church for new life came upon the Apostles that motivated and empowered them in a way never experienced before.
When the Spirit came upon the disciples it was a small group. Today we have a church of over a billion in every corner of the world, diverse in language, culture and looks, yet one around the Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ. That is the power of the Holy Spirit.
Acts of charity and kindness occur every day, people helping one another, encouraging when they fear, staying with them when they sorrow, standing by them when they fall, and helping them up. That is the power of the Holy Spirit.
Some years ago there was a TV miniseries called War and Remembrance about World II. It included a scene that is etched in my memory after many years. Hundreds of Jews were being taken by train to Nazi death camps. At one stop along the way, a farmer ran up to the train at great personal risk and threw a bag of apples into a train car packed with people who had little room and little to eat. Someone called out, “who are you?” His simple answer was: “I am a Christian.” That is the power of the Holy Spirit.
A grandmother died and it was determined that the grandfather could not live on his own. So he came to live with his son and daughter-in-law. The old man’s hands shook so badly that when at table food would fall on the table cloth and on him. This disturbed the adults who decided that their small children should not see that. So they made the grandfather eat separately and alone. Several times because of the shaking he would drop and break dishes, so they had him eat out of wooden bowls. At Christmas one of the children gave the parents wooden bowls and told the parents, “They are for you when you get old and come to live with me.” The power of the Holy Spirit moves in unexpected ways sometimes through our children.
A boy moved to a new town. A couple of houses down lived an old man with the reputation of not liking kids. One day the man walked over as the boy was pulling weeds. The boy drew back in fear. The man said, “That’s Charlie grass. If you grab it at the base and pull back, you will get at the roots. It’s named after me because I’m so ornery.” A friendship began that day. The boy would help the old man with odd jobs, and then they would sit on the porch drinking lemonade and talk about all kinds of things. For the boy’s confirmation the old man crafted a wooden windmill as a gift, a sign of the Holy Spirit, he told the boy, the wind of inspiration blowing through your life. Then the old man died. As they both grieved the loss, the boy grew closer to the widow who suffered from arthritis and failing eyesight. The boy read to her and she would serve him mint tea, which he said he eventually even began to like.
The night before his high school graduation, she took out a beautiful rosary with silver beads shaped like little hearts. “My husband gave me this when we were married over 40 years ago,” she said. “I have used it every day since as a sign of our love. We never had any children. You became part of our lives instead. As a sign of our love, I want to give this rosary to you. Tears welled up in his eyes. Years later he wrote: “as painful as their lives became, their final work and words were dedicated to someone else, to me. Now the thought of their good lives sustain me and enable me to do things for others, and let their example be part of the breeze of the Spirit that guides me.”
If we open our hearts to him, the Holy Spirit offers us the strength to cope and uses us as witnesses of hope,
Lord, send forth your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth through us. Come, Holy Spirit.