Friday, May 18, 2018

Following the Holy Spirit

Dear Friends,

I believe that the single most important promise ever made and ever kept was the promise of Jesus to send the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to be with His followers always. That promise is variously repeated in chapters 14 to 16 of John’s Gospel. “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have told you” (John 14.26).

And then the Spirit came, on Pentecost Day itself, in wind and fire. The disciples went out into the streets, and there, in the midst of the people, these formerly fearful disciples newly filled with the Holy Spirit, preached about Jesus, the Risen One. Their words were understood in as many languages as there were people gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost who heard them.

The Acts of the Apostles tells how the disciples traveled out from Jerusalem, baptizing and conferring the
Holy Spirit on those who had come to believe.

And so it has been to this day.

But who is the Holy Spirit? Mechtild of Magdeburg, a 13th century Beguine, wrote a concise rendering of who the Holy Spirit is:

“The Holy Spirit is a compassionate outpouring
  of the Creator and the Son.”

She went on:

  “This is why when we on earth pour out compassion and mercy
  from the depth of our hearts, and give to the poor,
  and dedicate our bodies to the service of the broken,
  to that very extent do we resemble the Holy Spirit.”

This Holy Spirit, given in love to us, is not an afterthought of Jesus, not just a sidebar to life, but rather, the Holy Spirit is the completion of God’s gifts to humanity, a way we see the human in a new way, infused by new energy. The Holy Spirit impels us to reach out to other people as our sisters and brothers.

Regrettably, the world is still caught up in works of marginalization, oppression and brutality. Writing in The Guardian about the #MeToo movement on May 11, Moira Donegas bleakly observes: “This is a common, but still very strange belief that the epitome of maturity and personal strength is the resigned acceptance that the world cannot be better than it is.”

But this is not true. With the Holy Spirit alive and active in our world, we can welcome and use to full advantage the power and the wisdom of God to shape our characters with the sort of boldness that makes the unity and cohesion of all people a goal of our lives. We do what we can. God in the Spirit inspires. We are called to imitate God in compassion and mercy. Pentecost is a day to take the measure of our willingness to partner with the Holy Spirit to revitalize our world and say yes to God.

~Sister Joan Sobala