A Catholic Monthly Magazine


Fr Kevin Head SM

It was a Saturday morning in early December 1991 in Samoa. I was moving furniture away from the louvre windows because cyclone-driven rain was blowing through them. Then there was a bit more noise, and the room suddenly became very bright. No one had turned the lights on. The explanation was simple -- there was no longer a roof over the building! It had lifted off and travelled some fifty metres up the hill behind the house. The cyclone, called Val, devastated both Samoas and other Pacific countries with winds gusting to 240 kilometres per hour (150 mph) and fifteen metre high (50 feet) waves.

Living in Wellington often reminds me of the hurricanes I was in and the power that the wind has to stir things up. Wind and noise and fire signalled the Holy Spirit's arrival at Pentecost, and the Spirit's arrival stirred things up magnificently. God's love in them so fired up the apostles that they went out and changed the world.

Anthony Bloom was a Russian Orthodox archbishop. In one of his books, he spoke of talking about Christianity with a learned Japanese writer. The writer said, "I think I understand about the Father and the Son, but I can never understand the significance of the honourable bird."

It's easy to have sympathy for the Japanese man because the very idea of the Holy Spirit is so difficult to grasp – like a bird in flight, we cannot catch the Spirit or put the Spirit in a cage. The 'honourable bird' is still in flight. Like the wind, you hear it without knowing where it comes from or where it is going. But you do know when the Spirit has been around, often in the simplest little events of our lives.

In celebrating Pentecost, we are not only celebrating a past event. We are also rejoicing in what God's Holy Spirit is doing in us now. Baptism and Confirmation are our Pentecost. In Baptism, the Spirit of God comes upon the new Christian. In Confirmation, the Spirit of God is renewed and confirmed in us.

The Holy Spirit does not always work in the way that Luke described in Acts 1:1-11. There are rarely fireworks in the living of our faith. The version of Pentecost in John's Gospel (20:19-23) is more ordinary, every day, and helps us see how the Spirit works in our lives now, mostly unnoticed and absolutely real.

The Spirit works in those who try to live a good life; in those who work hard for their children, pray for them and pray with them and try to bring them up in the faith. The Spirit works in those who struggle to make their married life better and in those who do not lie to get out of a mess but face up to it. The Spirit is at work in those who let go of a grudge, who pray for those they don't like, who visit the sick, comfort the sorrowful and visit prisoners. The Spirit is at work in people who are friendly to strangers, not only at church but everywhere, and in those who try to bring about peace and reconciliation. In other words, the Holy Spirit works in you and me.

The goodness, love and care in our daily lives is the work of the Spirit, unnoticed as our breathing and as real. In millions of ways in myriads of people, the Holy Spirit is at work, renewing the face of the earth through the goodness of our lives. Isn't that wonderful?

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