Reflections on the Readings
May 19, 2013 - Pentecost Sunday - Year C
I Highly Recommend It!
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
(1 Corinthians 12:7)
Who are your friends? Do you know anyone outside of your belief system? Do you eat lunch with them or hang out with them in any meaningful way? Do you let your kids play with the Pentecostal kids, or the Catholic kids, or the Muslim kids. In a conversation sometime back, I asked some Protestant folks, "How many Catholics do you know? Do you have any Catholic friends?" At that time they did not have any meaningful relationship with a Catholic person.
Sometimes we think we know what someone else believes or embraces concerning holy stuff. Too often what we think we know what Catholics or Pentecostals or other religions believe is based on unsubstantiated biases. Unwarranted fears or misconceptions drive many of our decisions as to who we are going to talk to and who we are going to avoid. I know this is true because I was/am one of those folks. Several years ago I told my children, "Don't you dare bring me any Catholic grandchildren!" I'm still doing penance for that brilliant statement of profound ignorance.
There is some risk in getting to know each other. Misunderstanding can occur. An unexpected response or the lack thereof is always a possibility. For example, I recall explaining my conversion to the Catholic Church to another Catholic. I shared that my decision was based on prayer and conviction. And although I had great peace in that process, I wanted my Catholic friend to know a little something of the enormity of that decision and some of the difficulty that attended that decision. I said to this person, "It would be like if you left the Catholic priesthood and became Pentecostal!" Unexpectedly he responded, "Oh, I would never do that!" Like I said, there's risk in being just a little bit vulnerable; challenging the blind spots in ourselves and others. Still, it is a risk worth taking; a necessary effort we must embrace if the prayer Jesus prayed for our unity is to be real for us.
In our yard we have several trees. We have Oak, and Hickory Nut, Dogwood, and a couple of Tulip Poplar trees. They provide shade and beauty and variety. All of these trees share the same yard and space. Some of them are really close to each other and their limbs intermingle. You might say we have a tree version of ecumenism. And as far as I can tell, all of these trees in our yard do not argue or express any attitudes of superiority against each other. So what does treeology have to do with theology? More than we imagine I suspect.
Making room for the Holy Spirit is something I witnessed in my Father. Daddy was always quick to acknowledge God and his presence in a matter or a prayer or song or a sermon either he or I preached. Later in life he was called to pastoral ministry in the United Methodist Church. Aware of his Pentecostal background, the UMC Board of Ordained Ministry asked him how he would handle his experience and belief about speaking in tongues. Daddy responded in a manner that I can imagine they didn't see coming. My Father explained that he could not deny what God had done for him. He also put their minds at ease by saying he would never push it on anybody. And without missing a beat he added, "But I highly recommend it."
It has always struck me as a little bit curious why the UMC Board of Ordained Ministry asked my daddy that question. I'm sure they had important reasons to quiz him about his Pentecostal beliefs. But looking back on that interview I wish my Father might have asked them, "Do you have any Pentecostal friends? Do you invite the Pentecostal pastor down the street to your Ministerial Association Meetings?" In all of his 30 years of Pastoral ministry in the United Methodist Church, I observed him living and preaching, and pastoring, never denying what God had done for him and always recommending a relationship with God through the power of the Holy Spirit.
There are three other very important reasons why I highly recommend inviting the Holy Spirit into our hearts and homes.
First, Jesus reminded Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, "The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." It this wind, this Holy Spirit wind that descended upon those gathered in the Upper Room. Luke says it was the sound of a mighty rushing wind and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And tongues as of fire came over everyone and rested upon each one of them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. We don't need to explain that away, but rather desire it, to ask again and again, "Holy Spirit, come! Come and fill our lives, inspire our words, empower us to give our families and our world Jesus!"
Pentecost lets us see the Church in its nascent moment - the Church's birth and life in the Spirit. From Peter's sermon on the Day of Pentecost unto the ends of the earth, the witness of the Church has spread out over the world. For what reason? To make known the Jesus she knows and to invite the world to love him as she does.
Secondly, we need the Holy Spirit to help us in our prayers. St. Jude advised the Church along this line. He said, "But you beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God; wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life."
The sainted Apostle Paul shared with the Corinthians, "I thank God that I speak in tongues more than you all..." I think that Paul experienced that in a deep and profound prayer life. Some have called this reference to speaking in tongues 'Paul's prayer language.' (1 Corinthians 14:18) Paul taught that the Spirit helps us when we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words...for the Spirit intercedes for us according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27) I know that in my life I've had the Spirit help me pray in some very dark moments and hours for a sick wife or child. Praying in the way Paul describes has also helped me as I have faced life changing decisions.
Thirdly, we need the Holy Spirit to help us to truly worship; to help us 'lift our hearts up to the Lord.' Jesus said, "But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4: 23-24)
John the Beloved, was exiled to the Isle of Patmos because of his faith in Jesus. Nonetheless, John opens the Book of Revelation saying, "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day..." The Revelation to John is filled with notable allusions to the Eucharistic Celebration. As we enter into the same Spirit as John the Beloved, we too ascend with the offering from the Table, joining our voices and songs with the angels and archangels, and with all the saints of heaven.
And then we go back to our homes and jobs more aware than ever that to each one of us the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. The good Spirit is given to us to know the goodness of Jesus in our hearts and thoughts. Then with the Spirit's assistance we are able to bring the gentle goodness of heaven wherever it is most needed.
The Holy Spirit? Well, let me say, "I highly recommend knowing Him better!" I hope my daddy up in heaven heard me tell you that! Amen.
Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN. Prior to uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. E-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org Visit him at: www.dennishankins.com