Spirituality of the Readings
The Great Sharing
Pentecost is not just another Sunday. It is a feast equal to Christmas and Easter themselves. It is the official sending of the Holy Spirit into women and men.
We have been hearing Jesus talk about this moment for weeks now in the Gospels. We have been hearing that he would not leave us by ourselves, he will send the Spirit, the Paraclete to us.
Here is a summary:
• The Father is so much within Jesus that if you know Jesus you know the Father.
• Jesus offers to be within us just as the Father is in him.
• This will happen through the sending of the Holy Spirit, who is the “insides” of Jesus and of the Father. The Spirit is the love they have for each other, the closeness, the great sharing.
Sunday we celebrate this having happened! The first sign is that the apostles begin speaking in tongues! People from all different lands and languages gather and each understands the disciples’ words without any translation (First Reading)!
This is no small thing. The reading tells us the languages of the people who were in the crowd:
Parthians, Medes, and Elamites,
inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia,
Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia,
Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene,
as well as travelers from Rome,
both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs.
Some of us are born with an ability to learn many languages, but not too many of us, and not like this.
But the real point is greater than that. God’s Holy Spirit means to bring us together in a deeper way. To allay differences, to let us hear the other person and not just to think about our own self. Each person has a “language” that expresses who they are (not a literal language this time, but an idiomatic way of speaking and acting that comes from the inside of who that person is). If you are able to listen, you can “listen into” these characteristics and receive loving knowledge of that person, even if they have no idea they are letting you in.
But that is so difficult, you say. Some people you run into are just plain annoying. “So-and-so just talks on and on and I think I will go crazy if there is a minute more.” You know how that is. So how in the world can we “hear” another human being?
With the aid of the Holy Spirit.
One work of the Spirit is to listen for the “insides” of the other person. If you take Jesus seriously in the Gospel, you will start thinking of the Holy Spirit as Love, given to the deepest part of you. Not Love instead of your own freedom, but Love as a help, a push (not a shove) toward caring for everything that is best in other people, even troublesome ones, and of course in God.
It takes time to learn all this, of course, to clear the various blockages inside us, the ones that keep the Spirit at bay. Remember, we are being invited into the greatest closeness possible, the great sharing that is God himself. Of course it will take time. But God is willing to make us “Temples of the Holy Spirit,” and to stay with us, strengthening us, guiding us, helping us to make Love a part of us.
John Foley, SJ
Fr. John Foley, SJ is a composer and scholar at Saint Louis University.
**From Saint Louis University