Today is Pentecost, the feast of the Holy Spirit. Bishop Fulton Sheen once wrote that from all eternity, the Father looks at the Son and the Son looks at the Father. And what each of them see is utter perfection and beauty. And so each of them sighs His love for the other. This shared breath is what we call the Holy Spirit, the love breathed back and forth between the Father and the Son is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the life-giving breath of the Christian life. And to live in this life-giving breath of the Holy Spirit, to trust in the life-giving breath of the Holy Spirit is to allow God to take possession of our lives and to change our hearts, to make us resemble him more and more.
In our first reading today, when the Holy Spirit descended there was, “A noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.” Now at every Mass I like to pray for the Holy Spirit to descend upon us. To descend upon everyone in the sanctuary and in the nave, even upon the families and kids banished to the cry room. I pray for that same driving wind to descend upon us and engulf us, to engulf us in a divine whirlwind. We should all be praying for the Holy Spirit to engulf us, to engulf us at the beginning of Mass, as the Gospel is being read, as we prepare to receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, and as we leave at the end of Mass.
At Pope Saint John XXIII my seminary, we had a Church History teacher by the name of Fr. Moriarty and he would begin every class with a prayer to the Holy Spirit. It’s the same prayer you sometimes find on the inside cover of Bibles. This prayer was meant to give us a sense of peace and to put us at ease and to focus our minds on what we were about to study. He probably prayed it more for us than for himself.
In today’s Gospel we heard that Jesus breathed on the disciples and that through this breath they received the Holy Spirit. And this was after he had told them two times, “Peace be with you.” This sense of peace associated with the Holy Spirit is also found in the very first line of the Bible. In the very first line of Genesis we read, “In the beginning God created Heaven and earth. And the earth was void and empty, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God moved over the waters.” That spirit, the Holy Spirit, brought light and peace to a dark empty void. Some theologians liken this dark empty void to the chaos that a soul experiences with sin. Yet the Holy Spirit eradicates the chaos and brings light to the darkness of separation that sin brings between us and God. And this action of the Holy Spirit is something we hear about in the formula of absolution in the confessional. May we hear that prayer often.
Now in his letter to the Galatians Saint Paul gives us a list of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. When we live in the Spirit we exhibit these fruits. Are these fruits evident in our life? St. Paul lists love, joy, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. And in each of these fruits there is an underlying sense of peace. One who loves is at peace, one who has joy is at peace, and the one who is patient is at peace, and so on. I’m sure we all know of someone who exhibits these qualities. And even in the midst of some trying circumstances these people still radiate a sense of peace. They are living a life in the Spirit of God. Mother Theresa was a prime example of one living a life in the Spirit. Even in the midst of Calcutta’s poverty and squalor she exuded peace.
When we live life in the Holy Spirit we are not only asking the Spirit to give us peace but to also guide us to all Truth, and Beauty, and Goodness (TBG). We can use these three ideals as benchmarks in our life always asking the Holy Spirit to always guide us to them, Truth, Beauty, and Goodness. When we’re watching TV or visiting websites, or reading books and magazines; we can ask ourselves, is there truth here? Is this goodness and does it reveal true beauty? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then why are we wasting our time? It’s only taking us away from God and life in the Spirit. With friendships and relationships we can ask ourselves too, is there truth here? Is this a good mutual relationship that truly reveals the God given beauty of the human person? Or is it a relationship of selfishness and mutual exploitation? All of our actions can be examined looking for God’s truth, beauty, and goodness. Remember TBG.
I want to share with you a true story about trust. In the 1860s, an acrobat named Jean-Francois Gravlet became famous for crossing over the Niagara Falls by tightrope many times. There was no safety net or safety harness. One day a crowd gathered at the falls to watch his most dangerous attempt yet. He planned to push a wheelbarrow loaded with a heavy sack of cement across the tightrope, an extremely precarious proposition. Thousands of people gathered and watched breathlessly as he made his way across, including a skeptical reporter who was observing the whole thing, just waiting for Gravlet to plunge to his death. He and the others watched as Gravlet placed one foot carefully in front of the other, slowly but surely pushing the wheelbarrow across the chasm beneath his feet, oblivious to the roar of the water beneath him and the danger that he was in. When he finally made it to the other side, the crowd let out its collective breath and cheered. Gravlet had done the impossible! After his crossing, Gravlet caught the eye of the skeptical reporter: “Did you think I could do it?” “No,” said the reporter, “but I sure do now!” “Do you believe I can do anything on a tightrope?” “Oh yes, Mr. Gravlet,” said the reporter, “After what I’ve seen today, I believe it. You can do anything.” “do you believe, then,” said Gravlet, “that instead of a sack of cement, say, I could put a man in this wheelbarrow – a man who has never been on a tightrope before- and wheel him, without a net, safely over to the other side?” “Oh yes sir, Mr. Gravlet,” said the reporter, “I believe it.” “Good,” said Gravlet. “Get in.” (He didn’t.)
My friends, the Holy Spirit is calling out to a weary and skeptical world, “Be not afraid! Get in the wheelbarrow! I will not lose you!” Let me envelope you with my peace. May each of us get into that wheelbarrow leading by example and showing the world that we love our Lord and that we trust Him. May each of us be a yes man or yes woman in the best sense of the word. And like our Blessed Mother may we always say Yes to His will, no matter what, in the most joyful and most sorrowful moments of our lives. Just say yes.
We have such a good God who loves us more than we can imagine and He sends the Holy Spirit among us to guide us on our way, to all Truth, all Beauty, all Goodness, and to give us Peace. We make it our constant prayer for the Holy Spirit to aid us. I’d like to end with a part of Fr. Moriarty’s prayer. He knew that we needed to constantly ask for the help of the Holy Spirit.
Come Holy Spirit fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your spirit and they shall be created and you shall renew the face of the Earth.
Let us always be enveloped within that Divine Whirlwind.
Pax et Bonum,
Fr. Christopher J. Ankley