Come Holy Spirit! Happy Pentecost! What do you think of when you image the Holy Spirit? Usually we think of a dove. That is because the Holy Spirit came down on Jesus at His Baptism in the form of a dove. This was obviously an important event to the early Church (and to Jesus!), since it is reported in all four of the Gospels (MT 3:16, MK 1:10, LK 3:22 and JN 1:32) The dove, a sign of peace and God’s favor from the time of Noah, would be most appropriate for Jesus. How appropriate the Holy Spirit as dove would be for run-of-the-mill sinners such as myself is doubtful.
Fortunately we have in today’s first reading some more active – and hence challenging – images of the Holy Spirit. The first is “a strong driving wind” that came from the sky. Having grown up in the Midwest with tornado drills and annual reports of tornado damage, “a noise like a strong driving wind” is not the most welcome sound. We are subject to tornadoes here in Austin, and we know they are terribly powerful. Perhaps we prefer a Holy Spirit that is more like a tame pigeon than a roaring tornado, and that is perfectly understandable, for the effects of the Holy Spirit can be upsetting! Moving us to forgiveness, to commitment, to generosity, even to heroic virtue, the Holy Spirit can blow apart our cozy, carefully constructed ideas and routines and push us out to DO something challenging, risky and GOOD. Perhaps the Holy Spirit will blow into your life and lead you to volunteer at St. Louise House, get involved at Catholic Worker House, help teach in the Religious Education program, reach out to your unpleasant neighbor, or even go on a mission trip! You never know where it is going to blow.
The other image of the Holy Spirit today is “tongues as of fire.” Now fire is another powerful, energetic, often destructive, image. Fire is upsetting and life-changing, as anybody who watched the TV coverage of the Bastrop fires, much less anyone who lived through those fires, knows. Certainly the disciples who experienced that first Pentecost were definitely changed! On fire with the Holy Spirit, they boldly preached the Gospel. This was at considerable risk to themselves, but they courageously proclaimed the truth anyway because they were on fire with the Holy Spirit.
So do you want the “strong driving wind” of the Holy Spirit to blow through your life? Do you want to be “on fire” with the Holy Spirit and boldly live the Gospel? Or would you prefer the Holy Spirit be just a nice, peaceful, white dove, that doesn’t ruffle any feathers or get people upset? I for one am quite comfortable with things being rather staid and dull. However, I also think that we rather badly need more Spirit in our faith. Many Catholic churches are, frankly, rather boring. Perhaps it would be a good idea to invite in the Holy Spirit as the Spirit came upon the first gathering of the Church on that original Pentecost. I am sure that it was anything but boring!