I’m officially excited about Pentecost.
Some of the readings of the last week have been amazing, haven’t they? Oh, that Gospel According to John! That’s apostolic writing! It conveys Christ’s love for us and the love that is the Trinity in the most penetrating ways.
There is so much in the run-up to Pentecost that is just not to be missed. Take this from by Saint Cyril of Alexandria, from the Liturgy of the Hours Thursday:
It was most fitting that the sending of the Spirit and his descent upon us should take place after the departure of Christ our Savior. As long as Christ was with them in the flesh, it must have seemed to believers that they possessed every blessing in him; but when the time came for him to ascend to his heavenly Father, it was necessary for him to be united through his Spirit to those who worshiped him, and to dwell in our hearts through faith. Only by his own presence within us in this way could he give us confidence to cry out, Abba, Father, make it easy for us to grow in holiness and, through our possession of the all-powerful Spirit, fortify us invincibly against the wiles of the devil and the assaults of men.
It can easily be shown from examples both in the Old Testament and the New that the Spirit changes those in whom he comes to dwell; he so transforms them that they begin to live a completely new kind of life. Saul was told by the prophet Samuel: The Spirit of the Lord will take possession of you, and you shall be changed into another man. Saint Paul writes: As we behold the glory of the Lord with unveiled faces, that glory, which comes from the Lord who is the Spirit, transforms us all into his own likeness, from one degree of glory to another.
Does this not show that the Spirit changes those in whom he comes to dwell and alters the whole pattern of their lives? With the Spirit within them it is quite natural for people who had been absorbed by the things of this world to become entirely other-worldly in outlook, and for cowards to become men of great courage. There can be no doubt that this is what happened to the disciples. The strength they received from the Spirit enabled them to hold firmly to the love of Christ, facing the violence of their persecutors unafraid. Very true, then, was our Savior’s saying that it was to their advantage for him to return to heaven: his return was the time appointed for the descent of the Holy Spirit.
“With the Spirit within them it is quite natural for people who had been absorbed by the things of this world to become entirely other-worldly in outlook, and for cowards to become men of great courage.” That’s something I was trying to get at in this new piece, here. Courage can be contagious! And we’re called to this.
And did you read this in Magnificat yesterday? From Mother Mary Francis, P.C.C.:
Jesus did the will of the Father when it was not at all pleasing to his human nature. It was not pleasing, even long before the Passion, to be treated with ingratitude, to be disappointed again and again, to receive such small returns for his love. But he did the will of the Father always and not just when it was agreeable to his humanity.
Out of that constancy comes directly that persevering love absolutely characteristic of Jesus. Saint John says of him that, “having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (Jn 13:1). Again, we see in ourselves, flowing right out of the previous consideration, a sometimes-love, a self-centeredness. Christ was always Father-centered and other-centered.
It is when we are focused on ourselves that we have sometimes-love. When we look back on our own lives, we realize that we have sometimes experienced that feeling of “What’s the use?” in situations, particularly at times with [people]. And yet there is that unquenchable love that God has put in our hearts, which comes up like a tide and against all evidence to the contrary. It urges us to say, “No, I will try again.” This is what we want to nurture in ourselves. This is of Christ. It is the always-love.
This persevering, constant love, like mobility and the faith response, comes out of suffering and pain. The love that is not persevering, the sometimes-love that separates us from Christ, is a matter of emotions, situations, persons, circumstances, surprises. But the persevering love of Jesus is the unquenchable love.
Always-love. Always, love. It’s not Hallmark. It’s the Incarnation. The Passion and Resurrection. The Spirit here with us. This is the whole story. The greatest story. The solution to our misery. The source of all love. And our shot at courage. How we answer our universal call to sainthood.
I pray you have a blessed Pentecost Sunday!