Feeling the Spirit’s Presence


Acts 2: 1-11; 1 Cor 12: 3b-7, 12-13; John 15: 26-27; 16: 12-15

Dc. Larry Brockman

How exciting and dramatic the first Pentecost must have been with the sound of a strong rushing wind; and tongues as of fire resting on the Apostles; and people from all over the world heard their own languages because of the inspiration the Apostles received from the Holy Spirit.  The Apostles were filled with enthusiasm and energy as they proclaimed the good news of Christ and the resurrection. 

Is that the way all of us encounter the Spirit, with a strong unmistakable presence that all but knocks us over, and motivates us to do great things, sending us out to proclaim the Good News to the whole world as God’s priests?  Probably not. 

As an example, I recall my confirmation, and although it was a joyful day and one in which I had a spiritual high, I don’t remember anything like tongues of fire or strong rushing winds and a strong feeling of change at the instant the Bishop laid hands on me.  It was the same way when I was ordained a Deacon.  I experienced a spiritual high that day, and felt very close to God.  But, I did not feel that direct connection with the spirit as symbolized by strong rushing wind or tongues of fire at the instant the Bishop laid hands on me. 

Of course, everyone is different, and some of you might have had dramatic experiences with the Spirit, but I’m betting that most of you haven’t.  So, does that mean that if we haven’t experienced God’s spirit the way an Apostle received it, there’s something wrong? 

First of all, not all of us are called to be Apostles dedicated to spreading God’s word as priests and religious.  Rather, we are the Body of Christ, with many members, each having its own function.  Each function is important to the whole body, so that engineers and doctors and politicians and stay at home moms are all important functions like the priestly function.  Secondly, I think that God’s spirit comes to us quietly, almost stealthily, most of the time, not in some flash.  When we receive a sacrament, that quiet feeling builds up to a Spiritual high as we prepare for it.  And so, if we are properly prepared and of the right mind, we experience a spiritual high and the presence of the Lord.  But we probably won’t experience the same kind of instant conversion that the Apostles described. 

And yet, we do walk away from that sacrament renewed in spirit, and prepared for whatever is ahead of us.  We are prepared for our mission in life, as we are sent forth from Confirmation; we are prepared for the challenges of Marriage, for those who get married; we are prepared to deal with our illnesses and infirmities for those who receive the sacrament of the sick; and we are prepared for ministerial life for those who receive Holy Orders.  Each sacrament confers the presence of God’s Spirit to us and we are filled with His grace in a special way to help us with the specific challenges in life that we will face that have to do with that Sacrament. 

But we must unlock the graces that come to us and we do that by continuing to listen to God every day.  You see, God’s Spirit is available to us all the time- but most of the time he talks to us quietly, when the distractions of life are put to the side, and it is then that his plan for us unfolds a little at a time, necessitating our trust in the face of uncertainty, the uncertainty that often accompanies us as we struggle to make meaning out of our lives, particularly meaning in terms of what God wants us to do with our lives. 

Now St. Paul tells us that “to each individual, the manifestation of the spirit is given for some benefit”.  So really, that’s what we need to find out, isn’t it.  What service are we destined to perform that God has given us special talents to do  So that we bear fruit that benefits others.  In that regard,  One spiritual writer has recommended that every Christian learn to deal their “holy discontents”.  As Christians, we know that there are lots of things wrong in the world, and in our lives-.   But not all the wrongs in the world touch our hearts with the same intensity.  For each of us, particular things resonate more than the others; these are our “holy discontents”.  When we get away from the distractions of life for just a little while, some of these things keep coming up, and along with them, God’s spirit is prompting us, nudging us, ever so gently to do something.  It may be the homeless, or the injustice of abortion, or the lack of solid religious education in our children, or the weak Christian presence in politics.  Maybe God has given us a special sensitivity in one of these areas because he is calling us to shine his light there.  If each of us made the commitment to brighten up just one such dark corner with Christ’s light this year, think how much brighter the world would be next year! 

St. Patrick once had a dream.  He dreamt that Jesus called him over to the edge of a hilltop overlooking a fertile valley at night time.  St. Patrick looked down and saw many people, each holding a candle, such that the whole valley was illuminated.  Jesus told him that these were the people that he had influenced through his ministry.  St. Patrick smiled, but then his smile waned as he saw most of the lights go out.  He asked Jesus if that meant his people would abandon their faith.  Jesus pointed again to the valley, and St. Patrick noticed one candle was still lit, and then another, and another, and another, as the lights spread like wildfire.  That’s what we are called to do by the Spirit.  To constantly rekindle the light of Christ amongst his people in whatever way we are called as individuals to do it. 

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