“We had not so much as heard that there was such a thing as a Holy Spirit” (Acts 19:2). An informal and unscientific poll of practising Catholics earlier this week revealed a similar level of ignorance regarding Pentecost and the Holy Spirit— it’s about the dove, right?
Among persons with a charismatic spirituality, or with Pentecostal affiliation perhaps there may be more information and devotion but, by and large, the sentiments of Archbishop Pantin when there was the discussion about trading one ‘Catholic’ public holiday for one of another denomination or interest group remain an accurate description of our attitude to the Feast—another day to go to the beach.
In the contemporary confusion of our country and indeed of the world, can this feast that celebrates the coming of the Spirit of Truth into a world left bereft by the departure of the hoped-for Messiah over two thousand years ago shed a ray of light?
Viewed narrowly as a ‘Church’ reality, can a conscious celebration of this event lead believers out of fearful avoidance into a convincing and dynamic proclamation of the Message that will point the way to the new thing that God is doing in our midst?
For that to happen we need to move beyond apathy and hysteria towards an attitude of prayerful attention to what the Spirit is saying to the Churches and to the world.
Follow the pattern of the first disciples—gathered in community in prayer, and responsive to the impetus of the Spirit outpoured, courageous to proclaim the reality of the Good News. This will demand silence and sustained prayer ‘with Mary, the mother of Jesus’, deep familiarity with the Scriptures so that we can truly speak the Word of God and not a personal selection of it, and the support of a community of believers to sustain us when the affliction of the world threatens our will to serve.
All the baptised already have received the Spirit so it remains a question of stirring up the grace lying dormant in our lives. In a memorable sermon a parish priest asked the class what they would do if their coffee were not sweet enough. As the class responded, ‘put more sugar’ each time he posed the question, in exasperation, he finally said, “Stir up the coffee!”.
The message is the same for us brackish Catholics; stir up the grace of the Spirit that has been given to you. Stop waiting for a god who waves a magic wand to erase sickness and suffering and the effects of our unjust structures and our greed and act on the power of the Spirit.
That is the only way to open our country to the new Pentecost, that the Holy Spirit is hovering over our chaos to bring out of it order and beauty once again.
Republished from June 4, 2017