Half the time I couldn’t tell you what day of the week it is. I can’t get my head around the notion that we are at the end of May but I know without doubt that this Sunday is Pentecost. Pentecost crowns Easter, bringing the liturgical season of Easter to a close and powerfully reminding us that the resurrection is an ongoing reality. It is the Holy Spirit who makes Jesus present in our daily lives. This Pentecost more than ever, we need to think about what that means.
There is amazing work going on across the world looking for treatments and vaccines for Covid-19. I listen from all around the world and I am filled with such a sense of wonder and awe – and I pray. I ask the Holy Spirit for those gifts of wisdom and understanding, knowledge and right judgement, courage and reverence for these researchers so that they will be able to find what we need. I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to open our minds, help us to see more deeply, think more creatively – to quite literally be inspired.
I think we also need to be inspired. We need that indwelling of the Holy Spirit to know that we are not in a spiritual desert at the moment. Yes, there is a loneliness and a sense of disconnectedness without the Mass. I have no doubt that the first time I am able to return to my own parish and receive the Eucharist I will find it a deeply emotional experience. I would love it to have happened on this Pentecost Sunday but the reality is we are at the very least weeks away from that and when it does happen it will not feel in any way normal with restricted numbers and social distancing.
But we have the Holy Spirit, the one who enables us to live and move and have our being in the presence of God, wherever we are. I’ve often thought that the Holy Spirit got a raw deal in Irish Catholicism, referenced primarily in terms of Confirmation. The reality is that without the gift of the Holy Spirit we would not be Christians. In his letter to the people of Ephesus Paul prays that God will “give you the power through his Spirit for your hidden self to grow strong, so that Christ may live in your hearts through faith,” (Eph 3:16-17). Paul is clear that it is in and through the Holy Spirit that we come to know and understand the love of Christ and in turn, the love of God. It is this love which, working in us, does infinitely more than we can ask or imagine (Eph3:20).
So in this time when the sacraments of the Church are not available to us, it is worth reflecting on what is sustaining and nurturing our faith. Where are we encountering God in the everyday? What draws us into deeper knowledge and understanding of God’s love? And consequently, what is demanded of us?
It is in and through the Holy Spirit that we are baptised and become one body. It is through the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives that we are called to be the ongoing presence of Jesus in the world. What does that mean at this time? An image that keeps coming back to me is of Jesus washing the feet of his friends at the last supper. Before he breaks bread with them he kneels to wash their dirty, dusty, smelly, rough feet. In this tender and intimate gesture Jesus acknowledges the journey his friends have travelled with him and offers them a powerful example of service.
People are travelling a myriad of strange, stressful and challenging journeys at the moment. We are called to wash each other’s feet – not literally in these days of social distancing but the Spirit can guide us as to how best we can be that tender, gentle, presence of God’s love for each other.