I love walking in the sea breeze. Brought up in Ardrossan, the breeze, or should I say the gale, was always blowing! So, it was good last week, when I was on holiday in Brighton, to spend a long time walking along the sea front. One day, there was a lone and very brave kitesurfer; the wind was giving him high speeds. There were two excited children with kites in the shape of large fish: so, I saw two flying fish, one red and one black! Further out, there were conventional yachts with sails being blown hither and thither by the strong breeze. Then there were the seagulls floating on the wind as if it were water.
I couldn’t help thinking how this one force of nature made all these different things possible. It’s as if it adapted itself to each thing while still remaining itself, the wind. I also couldn’t help reflecting that for all the things I saw, I never actually saw the wind itself. It’s a bit like your own breath. You feel it, but you can’t actually see it. Yet without it, we would have no life. With it, we can live our lives and be about our business. Whether we are eating, sleeping, studying, exercising …. all these need breath!
The wind of the Holy Spirit which the Apostles heard and probably felt in the Upper Room was also invisible. Before it came, they were like the kites I mentioned, but lying on the ground. They were laid low because of fear. But the minute the Spirit invaded them, they were up and out. The wind was firmly in their sails. The fire of Jesus which had been incubating in their hearts appeared above their heads and then in their mouths. They had not received the Spirit as a personal thrill, as if kitesurfing, but as a mission to set the hearts of mankind on fire. They spoke of the marvels of God. What marvels? The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the marvel of all marvels. And just like the wind adapts itself to each thing it touches, so the Spirit adapted the very language the Apostles spoke for all the foreigners in Jerusalem to understand. The wind of the Spirit is the breath of Jesus. It brings Jesus to mankind and mankind to Jesus. Jesus reconciled us with the Father; the Spirit puts that reconciliation into effect.
But the Spirit respects how each of us is, probably more than we do ourselves. We each receive the Spirit in a unique way so that we can each make our unique contribution to the mission of the Church. Like the Apostles, the Church, and hence each one of us, is sent to speak of the marvels of God. We each do it differently, but do it we must. It is why we were called, why we were consecrated in baptism and confirmation. Our main task in life is to draw those nearest to us into the life of God. We are to be little breezes, or even just draughts of air, that bring to life the hearts and minds of others. The Spirit enables us to do that without being intrusive or without interrupting our daily duties and activities. The Spirit refines our loves and the way we love so that we love with the breath of Jesus. The Spirit illumines our thinking and talking so that our words and thoughts become truer and more Christ-like. In fact, almost anything about us, even our bodies, can be used by the Spirit to make Christ more visible in our lives. In fact, on the last day it is our prayer and hope that Christ will raise these bodies by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is the engine, the power which unifies, which makes whole, which heals. When Jesus breathed on the Apostles he spoke of the forgiveness or retention of sins. Only the sins of those who do not sincerely want forgiveness will be retained. But the Spirit works so that no-one will be like that. He works to restore inner peace and order in every heart, in every life. Some people feel that their lives are all over the place. They sense that they are broken inside, often for very understandable reasons. Others live double lives, perhaps by choice, perhaps by compulsion, feeling imprisoned in their very own selves. Pentecost proclaims liberation to such people. It proclaims the marvel of Christ’s merciful and loving victory over all that breaks and imprisons hearts. The Spirit of Christ offers the broken-hearted the strength and unassailable support of Christ’s Sacred Heart.
And the Spirit does not just heal us within ourselves. He heals us between ourselves. There can be so many legitimate reasons why relationships break down. At other times, there appear to be no reasons. A hurt sustained, a grudge retained, an injustice undergone, and so many other such things, can deal a fatal blow to a relationship. The Holy Spirit wants to enter into these painful realities and work through them with us to bring healing, reconciliation and peace. Many of those in such situations are baptised and confirmed and possibly receive other sacraments as well. The Spirit is in these sacraments. The waters of baptism may flow off the baby’s head, but the deep well of the Spirit still gushes forth in the heart. The oil of confirmation may have dried, but the spiritual anointing with the Paraclete is as wet and fresh as ever. We must draw on these ongoing and permanent graces within us. Call on the Spirit once more to blow strongly inside your own upper room where you may be laid low. Let him let you not just talk about the marvels of Jesus but experience them again. Say often the prayer of the sequence at today’s Mass. Let the Spirit put the wind back in your spiritual sails and fan into a flame your tongue of fire.
Today, the season of Easter concludes, but the season of Pentecost begins. Let the Lord and Giver of Life, as we name Him in the Creed, give new life to your life, new purpose to your Christian commitment, new hope in the midst of your troubles and new love to your heart. I won’t recommend kitesurfing, which is not for the faint of heart, but perhaps I can commend to you the excitement of the children I saw with the flying fish. Let the Holy Wind of the Holy Spirit give you zest and zeal for renewed holiness of life today and always.