What are the things that you would change in our Church, in our city, in our family, in our nation, in the world?
As you compile your list, let me try to anticipate it by offering a simple solution to any of the problems that bother you and to any of the things that you would want to change. Given the obduracy of so many painful problems, I believe that we ought to be people “under the influence” in order to change a good slice of the world or at least the little corner in which we live.
We ought to be under the influence of the Holy Spirit!
The Spirit is intoxicating, overwhelming, irresistible, the way alcohol, or drugs, or speed, or a strong wind, or a tornado, or a raging fire are.
When I was a missionary in northern Thailand, once a month, I would visit a village of lepers whose disease was kept in check with medication administered to them according to a fixed schedule. A few hours before supper and Holy Mass, all the kids would gather for fun, games and candy, of course. Their favorite game was the “helicopter.” They would never grow tired of it perhaps because I alone was doing the heavy lifting. I would stand in the middle of the chapel’s floor (there were no pews; people would sit on the floor) and I would grab the tiny wrists of two kids of equal weight, one pair of wrists in my right and one pair in my left hand and spin around on the wooden floor.
The excitement was palpable not only for the two that were spinning around airborne, but also for those who were anticipating their turn and even for those who had spun around and were now recovering from their dizziness.
Those kids chose to be under some sort of influence. It might have been the feeling of the wind in their hair, of being weightless, of getting dizzy; whatever it was, they liked it; they wanted more and more of it. There was also the element of trust. They trusted me that I would not let go and drop them or hurt them in any way.
Now, if we look at the images used by the Church to convey to us the nature of the Holy Spirit, we get the impression of an irresistible energy, of an awesome power, of a sweeping force. We hear of a strong driving wind, like a hurricane. But we also get the image of tongues of fire and, if we read further into the Acts of the Apostles, we would learn of how people who saw the sudden change in behavior thought that the twelve were drunk.
Before the outpouring of the Spirit, these twelve unsophisticated fishers and peasants were scared stiff and locked up in the upper room. Then, swept by this irresistible force of the Spirit, they became incredibly bold and daring.
Either they were under the influence of alcohol, or something mysterious, inexplicable had just happened. For sure some irresistible Entity had altered their behavior the way fire alters the behavior of a pyromaniac or alcohol the one of an alcoholic. I am sure that the list of things that ought to be changed could get longer and longer if we stop to think about it or the next time something unthinkable occurs.
The main thrust of today’s feast of Pentecost might be this: the list would get longer and longer much to our vexation and frustration unless we are willing to be under the influence of the Holy Spirit. That is: unless we do not mind getting swept away by the irresistible power of divine love.
Recently, perhaps on account of the severe scarcity of genuine heroes, of believers, of disciples of Christ, who would abandon themselves in the powerful hands of the Spirit, there has been a tremendous inflation of heroes. Do something visibly unselfish, dare the unusual, make a noticeable sacrifice and the media would make you famous overnight. And, of course, send you back into oblivion soon after that.
Nowadays, the terms “hero” and “heroine” are used with largesse precisely because true heroes and true heroines are hard to come by.
Hence, this Feast of Pentecost might be prodding us to consider the possibility of becoming heroes and heroines whose deeds are prompted and recorded by the Lord Himself (cf. Rev. 14:13).
My friends in Christ, Jesus came not to wipe out the world and start anew from scratch: For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:17)
Today he shows us his wounded side and the holes of the cruel nails. They are the wounds that we can no longer ignore. Perhaps some of those wounds are in us, quite personal, quite familiar. Perhaps some of those wounds are in our family, in our community, in our little corner of the world. Perhaps some are big, scary, festering, worrisome wounds that affect a large segment of society.
It is not the time to look around and hope that somebody else would volunteer and we could just wait by the sideline to reap the benefits of their sacrifice.
If this Eucharist means more than a simple ritual; if it is our encounter with the Risen Lord; if we believe that by eating his Flesh and drinking his Blood we become Him, not partially, but 100% Christ, then we have to step forward and drink of one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:13)
If we are sick and tired of the present situation in which our world finds itself, we ought to realize that it is only through our direct personal involvement that things can change. Therefore, we ought to believe that only those who are willing to be completely under influence of the Spirit should be approaching the altar and become one with Christ through Holy Communion.
By drinking of one Spirit, it is time for self-sacrifice so that we may dress some of Jesus’ wounds.