50 days have passed since Easter, and today we celebrate the day when the Lord Jesus sent forth his Holy Spirit upon the Church he had founded, upon its pope and early priests and upon all the faithful, and indeed upon all the world. We call today Pentecost.
The Holy Spirit is so busy in our lives that it is impossible to consider all that He does for us each day. But I want to consider three functions of the Holy Spirit that seem quite important in our readings today. They spell FUD.
First, the Holy Spirit FILLS us. He also UNITES us and DIRECTS us.
First, the Holy Spirit fills us. This is a good thing. In our second reading today, St Paul tells us that we are to drink the Holy Spirit…just as one would drink water. We are to take big gulps of God. That’s great. I don’t know if you’ve ever come up face to face with your weaknesses and sinfulness–I’m sure you have–but doing so is a good thing to do. It reminds us that, alone, we’re pretty weak. But, filled with the Holy Spirit…by God we can do anything. The apostles in the upper room at the first Penecost, which we read about in our Gospel–they were so filled with the Holy Spirit at that moment that they turned the world upside down. They went in countless directions and did countless things. Until this point, they’d had their feet up and were in their barcaloungers. But, filled with the Spirit, they saved the world. You and I, we who have been filled with the Spirit in Baptism and Confirmation and in our prayers, we are meant to do the same.
Second, the Holy Spirit unites us as though by a powerful wind that gusts us together. In our first reading, we hear about how all these different folks had been united by the Spirit…folks from Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, and a whole bunch of others. They had been brought together, blown together by the force of the Holy Spirit’s wind. In the second reading, St Paul says, we’re all different parts, but we’re all in this thing together….united as we are by the Spirit. And the Gospel. It recounts the institution of the Sacrament of Confession. The Holy Spirit forgives all so that all can be brought black, blown back into the fold. The Holy Spirit brings us together. If ever you have felt close to another person, it is because of the Spirit. Our 8th grade now is facing this. The Spirit brought them together and now they find themselves in their last week of school as a class. The unity there…it is strong. It is the Holy Spirit. Yesterday we had a wedding. All kinds of folks were together, who never would have been had it not been for the Spirit that brought this couple together in the first place. The Holy Spirit unites us.
Lastly, the Holy Spirit directs us. Early Celtic Christians were very fond of a rather unusual image of the Holy Spirit:the goose. They sometimes called the Holy Spirit the “Wild Goose” or the “Goose of Heaven”….because following the Spirit’s promptings can be kind of like a wild goose chase….in the sense that it is difficult, fun, and also worthwhile. If we follow the Goose of Heaven, he will take us to all kinds of places….on one adventure after another. The life of faith is meant to be an adventure. The saints’ lives are lives of wild adventure, sometimes almost recklessly so. I think some of us have made Christianity a little too safe, dare I say a little too boring. If your life is boring you aren’t doing Christianity right. Following the Spirit is crazy and wild! People who go on mission trips or who go to seminary or on other wild and crazy adventures know this to be true. Mark Batterson wrote a book called Wild Goose Chase. He says a lot of us practice “inverted Christianity,” which is when we tell the Spirit to follow us instead of us following the Spirit. God wants us to follow him…and guess what? He’s got a better idea than we do.
Following the Spirit’s direction is what our life is all about. We could never do it alone. Fortunately, we have the F and the U…God fills us with power and strength, and he unites us to one another…and together we follow where the Spirit directs us. It is a beautiful adventure!