Christmas is about Incarnation, Easter is about Redemption, and Pentecost is about the birth of our Church through Inspiration. These holy days celebrate the triune God who loves us unconditionally. They point to the nature and extent of our relationship with our Creator - God the Father, our Redeemer - God the Son, and our Advocate - God the Holy Spirit. We often ignore the Advocate because the Creator seems so large and the Redeemer so close. But the Advocate is the one who allows us to accomplish the Father's Will, and be the Son's hands and feet, eyes and ears. The Holy Spirit speaks of the hope that we are without limits as members of the Body of Christ. That's why I love Pentecost.
Neither art nor our feeble minds can fully express the Holy Spirit. A dove, a ray of light -- that's about as close as we can get. I prefer to think of the Spirit as the mighty wind or the still, small voice. Or even better, the fire which sets the world ablaze with love and goodness. It's fitting, the illusive nature of the Spirit.
Christmas tells us God is with us, Easter tells us we can dwell with God forever as a people redeemed, but Pentecost allows us to do our part in Salvation History. It isn't limited to the folks in first century Judea. The Spirit came to them on the first Pentecost, and is with us still. Pentecost marks the down-pouring, the overflowing, of gifts into each of us down through the ages. Pentecost celebrates who we are in Christ: one body, many parts.
If God the Father calls us by name, the Holy Spirit forms us by fire. We each are born with individual gifts, and are given others throughout our life as we need them for His purpose. It's like the ultimate app store but hidden, full of free downloads but not of our choosing. The Holy Spirit runs this shop, inspiring us to do things far beyond our thought or capability. Today I might need perseverance, tomorrow you might need strength -- every day we all need forgiveness and mercy and faith. This extends to our personal vocations -- that specific purpose for which God placed you on this earth at this time.
We know well the way this all started, we celebrated it today. The Holy Spirit appeared to the apostles and Mary in the upper room. It descended upon them, filling them with the fullness of the Gospel, and inspiring the apostles to walk to the ends of the earth creating our Church, one believer at a time. It gave them the courage to speak God's Truth to power all over the world and lay down their lives for it (recall that except for John, they were all martyrs).
But not only them, and not just martyrs. The lowliest shepherd boy slays a giant and becomes a king. A murderous Pharisee becomes the great evangelist to the Gentiles. A bon vivant turns his life around and writes the story of his faith journey, which becomes one of the greatest pieces of literature in history. A warrior suffers a leg injury which destroys his vanity but creates an order which in turn founds schools across the globe, and gives the world numerous saints and our current, remarkable Pope. A young woman from Ohio becomes a nun and journeys to the Brazilian rainforest to help indigenous peoples, dying there, shot to death in the dirt. A sickly young French woman wishes to live a hidden life in a convent but her journal remains a best seller and she becomes one of only four female Doctors of the Church (her parents become saints too). An American heiress uses her substantial wealth to educate and catechize Native American and African-American children.
And not just saints, but all of us sinners too, are divinely inspired. In the realms of art, we can see the Spirit in so many individuals: Michelangelo, Schubert, Guadi, but also Chris Cornell. In Scripture even pagans are gifted by the Holy Spirit-- Rahab had courage and Naaman had faith, so did the Centurion. "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof...." I know the Spirit inspired these words because each time I say them I have a lump in my throat and sometimes tears on my cheeks. The mighty wind blows where it wills, the tongues of fire descend even if we cannot see them.
The Holy Spirit can do the same for us, in our own way, if we can just be open and present to it. If we can just be quiet or still enough to listen and then surrender. If we can put Him first. This can come through years of prayer or in a lightning-bolt fashion, who's to say. It sounds much easier than we make it, despite our good intentions to stay on the path. I may be trying to convince myself here more than you. But don't be fooled into thinking that the days of God's great miracles are gone. You were placed here and now to do something for Him that no one else can. A large part of your journey is figuring that out, and then getting to it. This process gives us a touch of the divine, it connects us to the mystery of eternity. It speaks of hope and infinite possibilities and wholeness within our broken selves. Through the Spirit, we are always... more.
Remember these precious gifts are not given for our personal achievement or glory; they are for the service of our Church and the glory of God. These gifts are a sacrifice of self which manifests His will. Their proper use leads others to their own gifts and to Him. This disruptive inspiration -- whether of fire or wind -- changes our world more into the kingdom every minute of every day. It allows us to lay our lives at His feet, a small price to pay for the life He gave up for us.
On Pentecost, this blessed day, we do not renew any vows, but perhaps we can allow the Spirit to renew our gifts as it renews the face of the earth. Perhaps we can pray for more gifts to be used not for own honor but for God's glory. Or maybe we can rise each day as if at Pentecost, dedicating ourselves to Him with joyful generosity and full hearts, listening for that still, small voice leading us along Love's perfect path.
What would you do for Him if there were no limits?