A Catholic Monthly Magazine

A Case of Spirit!

Fr Kevin Bates sm

Have you ever wondered why certain alcoholic drinks are called ‘spirits’? A note in Wikipedia enlightens us on this question thus:

The term ‘spirit’ in reference to alcohol stems from Middle Eastern alchemy. These alchemists were concerned with medical elixirs. The vapour given off and collected during an alchemical process, as with distillation of alcohol, was called a spirit of the original material.

In the light of this explanation, I suppose we can say that the spirit is what is left behind after the main event is over.

We can see it in the excitement or the delight on the faces of people after seeing an excellent movie or a delightful concert. Such spirit is evident on the faces of fans after a sporting event in which their team has won. The faces of those supporting the losing team do not betray any such spirit!

Real spirit cannot be contrived, legislated or orchestrated. The formidable marching soldiers of North Korea for instance, when they appear on our news bulletins, speak not so much of spirit as of control.

Religious people for whom rules are more important than relationships, likewise exude a seriousness that seems more about self-mastery than spirited self-surrender.

Politicians, constrained by the need to be popular and to guarantee re-election, are often prevented from revealing much of their true spirit as they spruik Party policies with earnest cheerfulness!

In many other professions, especially those for whom image and a competitive edge are crucial, a free spirit is something to be discouraged as a sign of vulnerability and weakness.

In any of these modes, our true self remains hidden away and is often paddling like mad just to stay afloat as it waits for the odd occasion when it can come out into the open.

The Holy Spirit lives in a different world from the world of control, competition and compulsion. This Spirit, left behind when Jesus returns to the Father with his mission completed, can belong to anyone at all.

Free from all constraints, free from the world of competition, of maintaining one’s image, the Spirit of Jesus is pure gift. This Spirit is not something earned. Nor is it something that can be controlled.

The Spirit of Jesus, this pure gift can only be received as gift.

This Holy Spirit is seen easily enough if we are alert. Look for faces that are truly joyful, voices that speak of peace and thankfulness, hearts that are on fire for justice, hands that reach out in forgiveness and healing.

The gifts of the Spirit are too many to count. Among the more easily recognised are gifts such as: Wisdom, Knowledge, Right Judgement, Courage, Wonder and Awe, Reverence, Understanding.

Each of these is a multi-layered kaleidoscope of diverse gifts, which when received, can be priceless tools for our mission, the mission of the Good News of Jesus.

As these gifts flourish within and among us, the Spirit of the Risen Jesus shows through in a wonderful variety of ways.

This Spirit breathing from deep within us, is a great nourishment to us and those around us. It is similar enough but somehow more sustaining than the spirit that grabs us following a sporting victory or some other entertainment.

This Holy Spirit is not something designed for our own pleasure alone. Rather it becomes our gift to all whose lives engage with ours.

Jesus is risen and has returned to the Father. Somehow he is still with us through the gift of the Holy Spirit. Some deep, prayerful breathing in and out this Pentecost may well open us anew to God’s best gift.

May you and your families breathe well and truly this Pentecost time.   

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