Acts 2, 1-11 + Psalm 104 + 1 Corinthians 12, 3-7, 12-13 + John 20, 19-23
It occurred to me while reflecting on this day’s great celebration that in the Apostles Creed there are ten statements about Jesus Christ and only one about the Holy Spirit. Perhaps this is so because everything else proclaimed in the Creed is the consequence of the Holy Spirit. The Creed speaks of God as “Creator of Heaven and Earth”. That work or that act of creation was really the Holy Spirit, the “breath” of God. When it comes to the Creed’s proclamations about Jesus Christ, it is really all about the Holy Spirit from the Conception when the Holy Spirit comes upon the Blessed Mother to the Baptism of Jesus when his work begins as the Son of God.
Even the Old Testament is filled with evidence of God’s work by the Holy Spirit. No one leads who is not led by God’s Spirit. In Genesis the Spirit gives Joseph the skill to rule. Joshua has military might by the Spirit in the Book of Numbers, and every one of the prophets is moved by the Spirit. We often speak of “inspiration” when we are touched by a work of art, a piece of literature, or a musical composition recognizing a beauty that is uncommon and sometimes makes us catch our breath. These very expressions and experiences give evidence of God’s work. An inspired person has breathed in something of creation and the creator with it. A truly great artist working in any medium of art reveals not just some thing beautiful; but reveals something of God, something that draws us to God, to the divine. This is exactly what we profess in the Creed with those simple words: “I believe in the Holy Spirit.” There is nothing more to say. The Holy Spirit is the work of God: all of it.
Not too many years ago standing in the ambo at Saint Mark Church in Norman, I began the Pentecost homily by challenging the assembly to name the “Gifts of the Holy Spirit.” There was a nervous wave sweeping across the church, and I began pointing to people who had not looked away. Gradually, one by one, we managed to come up with the “Gifts of the Holy Spirit”, nine of them! We got carried away, way beyond the traditional seven. The list we gathered was very convincing, but no one suggested that “energy” was a gift of the Holy Spirit; but from my own experience in all my years of ministry, I think it should be. We can talk all we want to about wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord, but without energy these are passive virtues all of which require some explanation or definition. What we hear happening in Acts of the Apostles today is anything but passive. It needs no explanation or definition. Those people in that upper room had some energy. They got up and went to work. They got up and began to do what was commanded of them by the risen Christ, and they did so with some extraordinary energy and enthusiasm. They had the Holy Spirit. In them and through them God went to work at creation.
One of the surest signs of sickness is a lack of energy. It afflicts many of us from time to time emotionally, spiritually, physically, and psychologically. The sick have no energy to do anything. It is a serious symptom. I remember the first awareness of my heart condition several years ago. It was a lack of energy. I could not keep up. I could not get going. Even walking to the office was a challenge. I had no energy. Fatigue is the way our body signals that something is wrong and our reserves are depleted, and it tells us that we need something that is missing. We must pay attention to this spiritually as well as physically. Spiritual fatigue is just as real as physical fatigue.
My observation is that we are living in an age of fatigue both spiritual and physical. We are worn out from chasing around after nothing but puny pleasures that wear out and are quickly replaced by another that requires more of us than we sometimes have. We do not seem to have the energy to deal with immigration, human trafficking, drug abuse, and the countless ailments that infect our lives and the lives of our neighbors. Even our church is tired and worn around the edges often lacking the energy to be truly prophetic. The popular “Prosperity Theology” that often fills suburban mega-churches makes people feel good, comfortable, and justified, but it never inspires or fires us up about true justice and the reign of God. Too often imprisoned in a kind of fundamentalism that turns Christ into a “personal savior” communities get obsessed with saving the world from sin, while the real sin is not remembering that our roots and our beginnings are in Pentecost.
Several weeks ago I went to the grocery store and filled a basket with things I needed for the coming week. When I got the register to check out, I reached for my wallet, and it was not there. Humiliated and frustrated, I explained the problem and asked them to hold the basket until I returned. I raced home and searched through the clothing I had worn the day before. No wallet. Then I put my hand in my jacket pocket, and there was the wallet. I had it with me all the time. I simply forgot it where it was.
This is what our Feast of Pentecost is all about. I have never gotten into this thinking that this is a Birthday celebration for the Church. In my opinion, that trivializes the reality we celebrate, and removes us individually from an experience that must be our Pentecost. We have the Holy Spirit. We may not forget that truth. Paul reminds us again and again that the Spirit of God that raised Jesus from dead dwells within us. As Paul said to Timothy, he says to us: “God has not given us a spirit of fear; but of power and of love.” The power of the Spirit is not like the power this world generates: a power of privilege and influence. It is the power of compassion, humility, gentleness, generosity, patience and service. More people will be drawn to that kind of power than to the power of might! Greatness in this world and in the reign of God is measured by how much a man or woman has been filled with the Spirit.
This is a day comes once every year with a reminder: a call to remember what we sometimes forget we have: Engery.