By Fr. Mike Boutin
Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth. (Psalm 104)
When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. (Acts 2:1-11)
Listen to Archbishop Rowan, the Archbishop of Canterbury and one of this generation's great religious leaders, sharing his thoughts about the Pentecost.
I was on retreat in upstate New York last week, and I spent a lot of time watching and listening. I encountered the wind: a gentle, caressing breeze that reminded me of the touch of a mother toward her tiny child. It made the trees sway, and the lake gently ripple, and the waves lap against the deck I was sitting on. That's how I want the Spirit to come.
And each night, in my remote little cabin, I built a fire in the fireplace to keep warm, and to meditate. Fire has a captivating effect on me. I love to stare at the flames as they leap up, and to listen to well-seasoned wood crackle and sputter, filling a dark and seemingly scary room with light, warmth, and welcome. That's how I want the Spirit to come.
If only fire and wind were always that manageable and contained. If only wind were always gentle, and fire always friendly . . .
But the winds that tore through Mississippi recently as tornadoes were anything but manageable. Homes and lives were destroyed, without warning . . . no tiny gentle breeze there.
And the fires that ravage the California forests each year are hardly friendly. Each year, people die, homes and towns are devastated, and nature shows us its mighty power.
And sometimes, that's how the Spirit comes too.
We want the coming of the Spirit of the Risen Christ on our terms: when and how we want it.
But the Spirit blows where it will, and how it will, and we can only hope to be ready. The Spirit comes to bring about unity in the midst of the diverse languages and misunderstandings of our day: in our world, in our families, and in our communities of faith.
The Spirit for whom we pray at Pentecost and every day of our lives is the Spirit given to us in the chrism and laying on of hands at Baptism. The Spirit is the Spirit who changes the gifts of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of the Risen Christ so that we are changed into Christ's Body and Blood to go out and change the world. The Spirit of Pentecost is the Spirit poured out in abundance in the sacrament of Confirmation, the one same Spirit who comes to heal, and set free, and bring Christ's gift of peace.
Whether she comes gently or with destructive power, the Spirit comes to renew the face of the earth; if we have open hearts to welcome her coming, and ready feet to bring her to our eager and waiting world.
Now pray . . .
Father Mike Boutin is the co-pastor of the Church of the Blessed Sacrament, Walpole, MA, and travels widely, leading pilgrimages throughout the world to various Catholic religious sites. He is a frequent speaker on liturgy, music, spirituality, and pastoral ministry.
5/17/2010 4:00:00 AM