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Feast of Pentecost

Week of June 9-15
Feast of Pentecost
Roberta Bailey, OSB, Benedictine Sisters of Florida

Good morning, my Friends! Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to do greater works than I have done.”

Can you recall a time (or two or three) when you were anticipating with dread a hard conversation you felt compelled to have with a confrere or co-worker, maybe an aging parent, a good friend? You just did not know what you were going to say. You ask yourself, “How can I be both diplomatic and kind; tactful and yet honest?” You imagined every possible scenario, picturing how your words would come out; how the other person would react. Then, when the actual conversation took place, you hardly recognized what came forth from your own lips — it was tender, persuasive but firm; you weren’t sweating or tense … the right words just sort of flowed out of you and rained gently on the loved one. That was a “Spirit Moment.” Remember, in Luke, Jesus tells us, “the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” Do we really believe Jesus? 

The Holy Spirit is probably the least understood Person of the Blessed Trinity. The Holy Spirit is not an “it.” The Holy Spirit is a Person — not someTHING, but, someONE. In 1st Corinthians we read that the Holy Spirit is in you. That means a personal relationship — a special, intimate relationship with the Spirit. Maybe you are not really comfortable praying to the Spirit — your relationship has been mainly with Jesus or God. Don’t start squirming … you already know the Spirit of God. Jesus told you: God and I are one…. and I will send you the Spirit. You affirm this every time you bless yourself, “In the name of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.”

If I knew how, I’d send you a recording of the theme music from a TV show you may remember. And, I’d borrow the opening words from “Mission Impossible!” “Good morning, my friends! Your mission, should you choose to accept it…” Just before He returned to heaven, Jesus said essentially the same thing. He charged us to do something which seems like a “mission impossible.” Recall His words — it’s one of the most amazing verses in the Bible. “Verily, verily, I say to you: You who believe the works I do, you also shall do — and even greater works than these shall you do.” Surely sounds like mission impossible to me! And yet, our God, who cannot lie, has said it. 

But how can we make it a reality? To put “flesh on our mission” we must have a vision of what Jesus meant by “greater things.” How well do I personally espouse the values of our family, our community, our company, our parish? How well do we put them into practice? Which ones do we do well, to which might we give more attention?

Jesus fed 5,000 people with a lad’s lunch. He walked on water. How can we do “greater?” Jesus raised the dead. How can we top that? Exactly what was it that Jesus said? Oh, He did not say we’d work greater miracles than He, but that we’d do greater works! What greater works can we possibly do?

First, calm yourself. Jesus’ primary work was not walking on water, healing people physically, raising them from the dead…though He did do all of those things. His primary work was to seek and save that which was lost. The miracle of Pentecost convinces us of the greater work the Spirit accomplished through the disciples. Now, they can be worked through us. 

In this season of Pentecost, let me ask you: When was the last time you had the courage to stand up for your convictions? To sign a petition, write to your senator, or fire up a committee to action? In some parts of the world having the courage to live the Gospel means risking your life. It may not ordinarily be that extreme but standing up for what you believe could cost you that promotion or disrupt relationships with family members. The stirring of the Holy Spirit compels us to every good action — to bless not curse — not to use God's name lightly. However, we only recognize the Spirit’s prompting if we are attuned to the signal … not in a dead zone where there are no lines to indicate connection or there is too much static to understand what is being said. 

We have to make a concerted effort to develop, or continue, the habit of having conversations with God. Psalm 139 asks us to ponder, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?” The Holy Spirit has all knowledge, sees everything that goes on, knows what’s in our hearts and minds.

Pope Francis (isn’t he a breath of fresh air — would that some of his charisma could rub off on our politicians). In The Joy of the Gospel he writes, “The point is that we seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit's power at all times. But we can only experience this in the divine fullness by yielding ourselves and our will to God.”

Living (that is, literally "walking") with and in the Spirit is the key…. If we turn our focus to the Spirit, we will be able to stand firm. As Pope Francis reminds us, “Jesus said, “Run the way, not walk. We must live with "one foot raised" ready for the journey, the path God has already trod for us. 

That brings to mind the words of Paul to Corinthians: "There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God working in all of you. To each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good." (1 Corinthians 12:4-7)

God has given each of us Spirit-gifts — you are to use them for the spread of God’s kingdom. But be patient. It might take a while to get a good idea of how God has gifted you. One of your tasks is to discover which are your gifts. To help with this, try different kinds of ministries to see which you do best. You will find that others will affirm you in your ministry in certain areas. You are also likely to find great joy and fulfillment in the areas where you have a spiritual gift. 

This week let our prayer for each other echo Paul’s prayer for the Colossians: (1:9b-12) “May you be filled with the knowledge of God’s will for you in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, full pleasing to God as you bear fruit in every good work and you grow in the knowledge of God. May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from God’s glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to God, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. “ 

Sister Roberta Bailey is prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Florida. Her experience ranges from Montessori infant care to college instructor and accreditation consultant. In her “spare” time she holds positions on boards for Saint Leo University, Pasco County domestic violence prevention programs, public school advisory committees, and the local Chamber of Commerce. Sister Roberta’s warm and inviting reflections are peppered with questions for each of us. Spend some time with her thoughts and questions and see where they lead you on your journey.