In the second reading from first Corinthians for this feast of Pentecost we hear: “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit” (1 Co 12:7). We each are given a ‘manifestation of the Spirit’ an “We were all given to drink of one Spirit” (1 Co 12:13b) and we participate in the one, same Spirit. This unifies the body of Christ that we form.d it is for a benefit, a benefit not just for ourselves but, as we form one body, it is a benefit for the larger community as well, the immediate community here at Redwoods and the larger community of the Church and the world.
In John’s gospel for the feast of Pentecost Jesus breathed his Spirit upon his disciples, he breathes his Spirit now upon you, upon me…Really sisters and brother what excuse do we have for not embodying and exercising this power given to each of us, to bring forth peace, God’s healing, and reconciling love? In many ways all our excuses come down to ego stuff. Sure our wounds are real, however, what keeps us imprisoned within them? This Spirit can use our very wounds for life, for love, for deeds of selfless service, for creativity, for wisdom. Jesus enters the upper room where the doors are locked: nothing can keep the Spirit out…This power from on high, this gift of God is present…it is everywhere: What is it then that makes us reduce, diminish our lives and that of one another? How come we stay stuck in our fears and negativity, in our controlling ways rather than giving ourselves over to receiving God’s Spirit, to being led and transformed by the Spirit, the Spirit that hovers over our hearts and hovers over the horizon of this community?
In his book, Prayer In The Cave of the Heart, Fr. Cyprian Consiglio writes: “The Spirit that is in us is not meant to stay put—it is power…that is meant to flow through us, course through our veins, and pour out of us in love and service” (p.25). These words of Fr. Cyprian state the reality so clearly: God’s Spirit ‘is not meant to stay put’ or dormant; it permeates our lives and is waiting for our response, our willingness to give our flesh, to be this on-going vessel of God’s life. Obviously we need prayer, contemplative prayer, which in Fr. Cyprian’s words “is our means of accessing that power, that Spirit that has been poured into us, accessing it as Jesus did when he went out to deserted places” (p.25) to pray. And once we ‘access’ or get in touch with it, wonderful things can happen in and through our weak, vulnerable, human flesh.
In speaking of the inward journey Fr. Cyprian uses an expression from Anthony Bloom ‘it is a journey through my own self’ (p.37). “Through the Self”: what precisely does this mean and how is it related to living our life through, with, in the Spirit? As we focus on the inner journey we can get caught in “self-preoccupation”, too much focus on ‘me’. Thus in Fr. Cyprians’ words: “We are going through ourselves to get beyond ourselves. The journey is through our own experience, through our own souls, through our griefs, joys and pains—but it is through them, in the belief that there is something on the other side of them if we don’t get caught up in them, in the belief that our deepest selves lie hidden, as St. Paul says, ‘with Christ in God’” (p.36). I wonder if this is not the key to where we often get stuck and miss so many opportunities for the Spirit to be manifested in our lives. We remain too caught up in ourselves, too identified with ‘my’ hurts, ‘my’ likes and dislikes, ‘my’ whatever rather than going deeper with the faith and knowing that the Spirit can transform and change our attitudes and create us anew, making us more Christ like in our consciousness and service.
Pope Francis in his homily for Pentecost this year notes that “the Spirit is at work in individuals and communities”…“the Spirit,” he says, “makes them capable of recipere Deum (receiving God), capax Dei(with capacity for God)…” So this is our capability…we are endowed with the capacity for God, the capacity to receive Divine life, to be renewed and guided by the Spirit in an on-going way. How does this capacity get stymied? Here is what Pope Francis says: “The world needs men and women who are not closed in on themselves, but filled with the Holy Spirit….There are many ways one can close oneself off to the Holy Spirit: by selfishness for one’s own gain; by rigid legalism…; by neglect of what Jesus taught; by living the Christian life not as a service to others but in pursuit of personal interests; and in so many other ways.” Could we each notice and reflect in the coming week how we get too closed in on ourselves, how our selfishness and self-preoccupation closes us to the workings of the Spirit? This capacity for God, this capacity to receive the Spirit is always intact…we don’t lose it. ‘Going through ourselves in order to get beyond ourselves’ will lead us into the open, fresh, hope-filled space, healing space of the Spirit. We may, in the end, just find ourselves happier, freer, more united to God and one another…we may just find the One who we are following, who is breathing forth his ‘peace’, teaching us how to forgive and to love, to be vessels of God’s life.