Reflection on the Feast of Pentecost
“Today is the Church’s birthday ... the most brilliant feast in the liturgical cycle. If there is ever some time when the feast of the Holy Spirit takes on an element of urgency, then I believe that time is now when we experience so much confusion, so many false voices of redemption, so much materialism and selfishness, so much hatred and violence. It is a wonderful time to experience a longing for freedom, for justice and for truth ... a profound desire of the human person that can only be filled by the Spirit of God who ... fills the emptiness.” (St Oscar Romero, Homily 1979)
The more contemporary writer, Anthony Gittens, (A Presence That Disturbs, 2017) expands on Romero:
“It has been suggested that the history of Christianity can be largely read as tales of defeats of the Holy Spirit. Triumphalism, imperialism, the use of force and fear are not what God’s Spirit had in mind. The Spirit is trying to break through ... but humanity is muzzling the Spirit as we resist the cries of the poor, blame victims, justify our own comforts and separate the “us” and the “them”.
He says that the Spirit wants to instill in us a hunger and thirst for justice that will stimulate us to disturb the status quo by fighting for the transformation of our unjust world, the restoration of human dignity for all and hope in a better future. The Holy Spirit comes to instill resolve in human hearts.
Gittens then asks: “Where are the indications in our time that the Holy Spirit is trying to make all things new? Does God’s Spirit seem to inspire or animate any institutions that we know?”
In the Church, is Pope Francis in his words and example and especially his encyclicals Laudato Si! and Fratelli Tutti and in his promotion of “synodality”, an instrument of the Holy Spirit? In society, is the United Nations Agenda 2030 and its action plan expressed in the Sustainable Development Goals, an instrument of the Holy Spirit? Is this true of other organizations like the Laudato Si! Movement? Are they not advocating for “a renewal of the face of the earth”? Are we promoting them?
For us Ontarians, as we approach the Provincial election in June, is there any political party that we can trust to address the issues that have always been there but have been made more visible by the COVID pandemic? Among the vying Political Parties, which one seems to offer the best prospect for new life arising from the current crisis? We hear people saying that there is no sense in voting but our vote DOES matter because it can turn our Members of Parliament and hence our Government toward greater justice. The Catholic Charities’ 2019 election guide “For Heaven’s Sake Vote” is worth a look.
As we celebrate Pentecost, let us be open to this “presence that disturbs”. For Gittens “the Holy Spirit is Jesus’ promised legacy to the Church, invisible to all but those with the eyes of faith, silent to all but those who listen attentively and overlooked by all but those who live in hope.”
For Romero “At Pentecost, the glorified Christ, the Spirit of God, comes to the people who want to follow Him. The Holy Spirit makes the Church a new creation, renews the actual world and fills the hearts of the faithful.”
If Christianity must be caught rather than just taught, can we spread it as easily as we spread COVID?