Sunday, May 27, 2007

Pentecost Sunday, 27 May 2007

What does it mean to say that a person has a lot of spirit?

What kind of person is one most likely to have a lot of spirit?

I had the great fortune of watching our school’s field day, especially the opening ceremony. The Pre-K and Kindergarten were jumping up and down, shuffling and twisting. The other grades were clapping and dancing like they were at a party. Certainly there was a lot of spirit there, this past Friday. But is spirit only for the young people? I saw the teachers also tossing water balloons, splashing and having a grand ole time.

So where does this spirit come from? Is it something we eat or drink? Is it in a pill we take? (I certainly hope not!) We often jokingly comment when we see a person with extraordinary spirit, “What’s he been drinking?” or “What did they slip into her food?” Yet it’s not something that enters into us from the outside, but something that wells up from the inside of us.

Jesus said that this spirit would well up within us like living water to Eternal Life, if only we ask for it. There is a big difference between the teaching and grace the disciples received when Jesus was with them and the grace and teaching they received when His Spirit was within them. While Jesus walked among them, the disciples very rarely understood what Jesus was trying to teach them, or what the implications of those teachings were for not only their particular historical circumstance, but for civilization in the future. While the Apostles were mainly concerned about the political situation of the Kingdom being returned to Israel and their own self rule, Jesus was more concern about wider-reaching issues, about deeper conversions. You see, Jesus wanted to stretch the Gospel far beyond the small area of Palestine in the first century. He wanted all people to hear His message and receive His Grace. Once the Holy Spirit came to the Apostles in the Upper Room (Cenacle), their minds were enlightened, their courage emboldened, and their communication skills enhanced. They were able to speak to a crowd from diverse cultures and languages and were understood. They were able to speak the message of Jesus to hostile crowds and not worry about what they were to say, because Jesus had promised them that the Spirit would give them the proper words at the proper time.

The Spirit of Christ wants to do these same things for us. Sometimes it is difficult for us to enter into dialogue with another person because we are afraid of their reaction. The message we have for that person may be difficult for him/her to hear. Call upon the Holy Spirit to give you the words, the courage and the proper frame of mind to engage in such difficult discussion. While rarely to we run into people who speak different languages, we very often know people, perhaps in our own families who seem to operate on a different “wavelength” from us. Calling on the Hole Spirit can help us here, too. The Spirit of Christ can help us and give us the grace to stretch ourselves to try and understand that person.

Just as the Holy Spirit can strengthen our relationships with one another, He can also strengthen our relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus said in today’s Gospel, “If you love me, you will keep My commandments, and I will ask My Father, and He will give you another Advocate.” First, “If you love Me,” let us ask ourselves, “Is my relationship with Jesus a relationship of love? Do I make room for Him in my heart? Do I look within and ask myself, ‘Where is there love in my life? Is there any?’” This love we are looking for in life begins with Jesus. Scripture says that God is love. Is my relationship with Jesus Christ based on love, or based on duty? Jesus wants His relationship with each of us to be based on love.

Next, “You will observe My commandments.” The word observe often has several meanings, such as: to look after, to preserve, to protect, to keep alive. Am I aware and enlightened by these attitudes, by my relationship as a disciple of Jesus?

God will give you another Advocate.” Another word for this is Consoler, another is Counselor. Very often defense attorneys are called “counselor”. They are meant to be one’s advocate in a very stressful and difficult situation in their life. We often look for someone who will stick up for us, someone who will look after us and care for us. Am I truly convinced that true consolation comes from the Lord and from His Spirit, or am I too focused on the world around me to truly believe that God and His Spirit can be my Consoler, my Advocate?

This Advocate “will be with us always.” In other words, the Spirit will make His home in us. The Lord Jesus is standing at the door of our hearts, waiting patiently for us to open it. If you’ve ever seen that famous painting of Jesus at a front door all overgrown with moss and vines, you’ll notice that the door has no knob or handle. It only opens from the inside. Jesus is wait for us to open the door, yet He does not force or coerce us. Are we ready to make a place for Jesus in our hearts?

Today is the feast of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, the birthday of the Church. Spend some time today calling upon the Holy Spirit to guide us and strengthen us for the work of the Gospel in our own lives and in the lives of everyone we meet.

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