Pentecost | May 21, 2015
Dear Brothers, Associates and Collaborators:
Happy Pentecost! Celebrated fifty days after Passover, the Jewish people seal their covenant with God. Pentecost is about fostering vibrant relationships with God and each other that are inspired and sealed by the Spirit. I assume that the disciples gathered to celebrate as best they could the Jewish Pentecost. I also assume that none of them felt like celebrating. For a few moments, let us enter that meeting room.
Still in deep mourning the disciples were huddled as a fragile community. They gathered not just out of fear of the leaders who killed their friend, Jesus, but more importantly to support each other as friends and to come to grips with what had taken place. They needed to figure out what Jesus’ teachings now meant in their lives. In a recent reflection, Kathleen Hirsch, an adjunct professor at Boston College and spiritual director, gives us an insight to what the disciples must have been feeling. She wrote about their deep grief.
The deaths of innocence and beauty break something so deep in us that we have no words for it. Heartache only begins to describe the shattering sense of exile and total displacement. A world comes to an end. The familiar, bounded world where people eat together, bicker, and make up; where weaknesses are tolerated and dreams nursed along. Where we are able to be our unrepeatable, unique, precious selves, no two alike.
I feel we can understand what Kathleen is describing because in one way or another we have had experiences similar to that of the disciples. I can remember receiving a telephone call on a hot summer afternoon that my six year old cousin was dead. He accidentally shot himself with his uncle’s police revolver that was left unattended in the bathroom. My aunt and uncle’s world was shattered. My family experienced a very deep grief because Christopher was the youngest member of the family. The apple of everyone’s eye was gone. The rupture in was very deep. Kathleen continues to share her insight about the disciples. .
It is important for me to remember that this was precisely the situation in which the disciples found themselves in the days following the crucifixion. The world they had created was completely destroyed. It had been a fragile one to begin with, a community of friends bound by a quality of consciousness, a vision of love and healing that had transcended the brutal regimes of the day and had enabled them to grow into much larger selves…
In their grief, something was stirring in their imaginations and hearts. Was it the memory of the last meal they had eaten with Jesus? His example of washing their feet? Or was it the very intimate farewell he had shared with them?
Still, I am telling you the truth. It is for your own good that I am going because unless I go, the Paraclete will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you. Jn 16:7
Spoken just hours before Jesus was arrested and their world shattered, these very intimate words touched the hearts of the men who dared to follow Him and who came to love Him. Jesus was very emotional. So were they. They did not want to hear these words of farewell. Were they second guessing themselves? Why did they cast their nets with Him as He asked? Jesus had given their lives so much meaning. I am sure the disciples also recall Him saying:
I have told you all this so that you may find peace in me. In the world you
will have hardship, but be courageous: I have conquered the world.
Did they understand? Did they grasp what He had said to them. “Shalom, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled” … Were those words now sinking in and capturing their minds and hearts?
And when the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place
together. And suddenly their came from the sky a noise like a strong
driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there
appeared to them tongues of fire, which parted and came to rest on each
one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to
speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.
The vibrant relationship between Jesus and the disciples, between Jesus and us, is sealed as we celebrate Pentecost.
If we learn from the disciples, Pentecost takes on a deeper meaning. The disciples suffered through their grief, confusion, period of doubt, as well as the happy memories of their friend. All they went through together prepared them to receive the Paraclete or Comforter, God’s Holy Spirit, and prepared them to experience Jesus’ blessing of shalom and to become courageous in their belief in Christ.
In his Presence that Disturbs, A Call to Radical Discipleship, Anthony Gittins, CSSp, makes wonderful observations about living our discipleship in the Spirit. First he points out that no matter how uncomfortable it may be, we must not be tempted to control the Spirit of God. It is Spirit who renews the face of the earth and that includes us.
It is the Spirit who inspires, comforts, enlightens, encourages and emboldens. And it is also the Spirit who disturbs. We are called to reflect on the way we are living, both individually and communally. How am I (and how are we) faithful disciples? Faithful to our charism? Another point that Anthony Gittins makes is we have to be willing to wait on God. Our Founder gives us edifying examples of waiting on God from 1827, when he entered the Trappists in France until 1839, he waited days for the first candidates to join him at the Ezelstraat house. Our spirituality calls us to learn to wait on God.
Be patient, therefore, with yourself and with God.
If you allow yourself to be formed by God
through the common, ordinary, unspectacular
flow of everyday life you will gradually experience
a liberation and a freedom never before imagined. (FP)
Anthony Gittins poses a number of questions worth citing here.
Where are the indications that the Holy Spirit, in our time as in every age, is trying to make all things new in order to renew the face of the earth? (loc 611) Where do we see the Spirit moving today making all things new? Do I let the Spirit renew my life? Our life as a Congregation?
As religious, Associates and Collaborators in Catholic education, should we not be awake and alert to the Spirit’s creative disturbance of the status quo? (loc 598) How can we possibly “Wake Up the World” as Pope Francis desires if we are not willing to be disturbed by the Spirit?
Anthony Gittins goes on to say that there once was a moment when the early Christians really shook the world. He then asks, “Is that moment forever past, or can today’s believers still generate a similar passion? Do some of us still hope fiercely enough when we say, ‘We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life’?” (loc 623) Does the Spirit truly inspire and animate me (us) and our institutions? How does the Spirit disturb me (us)? What does the disturbance tell me?
Fr. Gittins provides some helpful signs that describe those who live in the Spirit:
- They look for trouble, that is, for troubled people like Jesus did.
- They pray to be disturbed lest they not hear and respond to the cries of the needy and the structures of sin.
- They are united yet diverse.
- They are convinced that they can help change the world and that they should be found guilty if they fail to do so.
- They live exciting and fulfilling lives or as Pope Francis says they experience the joy of the Gospel.
Renew the face of the earth and make all things new including ourselves.
Pentecost is that moment when the disciples publicly sealed their relationship with the Risen Christ not only by their words, but also in their way of living as a community. Let’s pray to the Spirit. May the Spirit impel us to bring about new expressions of Church—our Associates; a deeper relationship with our Collaborators and volunteers; and a deeper fraternity with our young regions. Let’s pray that the Spirit gives us the courage to pursue expressions of community we have not yet thought about. As we celebrate Pentecost let us ask God’s Spirit to renew our passion for everyday living as disciples of Jesus and daughters and sons of Ryken even if being such disturbs us. Shalom.
Brother Edward Driscoll, C.F.X. | General Superior