Pentecost celebrates the Holy Spirit front and center. This is good since our fellow monotheists can get confused with our Trinity talk. Similarly, we often raise children in the faith who have a lot to say about God the Father and His Son, but have a harder time talking about the third “Person” in the Trinity.
It’s about dying and rising …
As the Easter Season came to a close in May, I was called to celebrate a number of funerals and Christian rituals. In early May, I accompanied the final remains of my first pastor to his family burial site in Pennsylvania. He wrote a story about this place two years earlier. Being at the actual place brought his words to life and I remembered the many stories he told me about this place before he died. Watching his remains lowered into the ground, I was struck with intense gratitude to be brought to such a sacred place where his body and our prayers were to be lifted up.
Less than a week later, I learned that the Christian Brothers Academy religion teacher who introduced me to Zen Buddhism, the mystical tradition, and Christian service had died. Coincidentally, I was moving some religion books from a shelf in my home — some of them were ones she had given me. During a break, I glanced up at an email and saw her name.
For the first time in a long time, I stopped and cried. The loss of Fr. Howard was one thing. But with Pat Tracey’s death, I realized two very important pillars in my life were now gone. I could no longer call them up to ask them a question or make plans to meet. Indeed, when I attended the wake and first spoke with Pat’s beloved niece, she told me she felt the exact same way.
After the wake, I was spending some time catching up with some fellow students who had come to pay their respects. I received a text message that my dad’s second youngest brother had suddenly and unexpectedly died. We had just been talking about him a few hours ago as I sat down to lunch with my father before the wake. As my funeral weekend came to a close, my father was rising to begin his.
The Spirit stirs us into flame …
As Catholics, we understand that death is not the end. But this was the first time that I felt drawn up in the spiritual horizons of Easter, particularly Ascension and Pentecost. Jesus has already died. Jesus has also risen. But now, Jesus tells us he is leaving us. He promises that he goes to prepare a place for us. He promises to send the Holy Spirit. But then he leaves us.
Pentecost fulfills his promise. Pentecost fills us like the murmuring on the road back from Emmaus. The disciples share the news excitedly with the others and say, “Did not our hearts burn inside us when he opened our eyes to the Good News?” And yet, Jesus also disappears from their midst.
Unlike Jesus’ baptism, there is no theophany — the voice of the father, the dove coming down, Jesus revealed as the beloved son. Instead, we have rushing wind, spurious fire, and the noisiness of our own voices meeting the wonder and confusion of others around us.
I am sure parents seeing their children at graduation feel similarly. Our child so fully present yet leaving/vanishing before us. There God is fulfilling a promise to us and them drawing out the totality of their lives and ours.
We are called to new life …
We celebrate this Pentecost moment as “the birth of the Church.” We are anxiously gathered together. We feel ourselves stretched because He has gone before us and yet His Spirit has come to be with us.
Fr. Howard left me a parish where I am responsible in my own ways for encouraging it to thrive. Pat Tracey left me all her examples of Christian action in a noisy world of diversity where it takes courage to speak the Good News. And my Uncle O left behind a family bigger than my daughter has ever even met.
It’s been a great 50 days.
We are a church of the “already and the not yet.” We celebrate Christ who died, is risen, and is to come. How does the Holy Spirit draw us to the fullness of the Trinity in this Post-Easter life?
Copyright 2018 Author