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SERVE THE LORD WITH GLADNESS | The Holy Spirit can fulfill many of our longings

As we approach Pentecost, we can pray for an answer to our longing for Christian unity

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Do you long for anything?

Kids long for superpowers! Adults long for simpler but deeper things: wisdom, peace and reconciliation.

This week, the Church longs for something: the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. It’s no accident that the readings all week highlight various facets of Christian longing.

For example, when Paul is in Ephesus, he asks the people: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit?” Their reply is telling: “We have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” They were missing something. Paul noticed it and longed for them to receive a deeper life.

We read the end of the Acts of the Apostles this week. Jesus tells Paul, “Just as you have borne witness to my cause in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness in Rome.” When the Acts of the Apostles close, Paul is still preaching in Rome. The astute biblical reader, who knows what comes next, is left longing for something. Only one thing is left to complete Paul’s “giving witness” in Rome — his martyrdom.

We celebrate the feast of St. Matthias on May 14. With Judas’ departure, there were only 11 apostles. They knew there needed to be 12, but they were left longing for something. St. Matthias was the answer to that longing.

In John 17, Jesus prays that His disciples might be one. His prayer is the foundation of all prayer for Christian unity: “so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.” Christian unity is something for which we long, and ought to pray, both because Christ desired it and because it’s intimately tied up with evangelization. According to the words of Jesus, Christian unity is a sign that the Father sent Him. What, then, is our disunity but a countersign to the Gospel?

St. Cyril of Jerusalem uses a beautiful metaphor, saying that the Holy Spirit is like water. Water remains itself, yet has the capacity to bring forth many different fruits. Adapting his examples for life in the Midwest, we could say that water brings forth grass, flowers, strawberries, apples, corn, soybeans, wheat and so on. The same is true in people: From different religious orders to different spiritual personalities, the Holy Spirit remains ever itself but brings forth many fruits and, in doing so, fulfills many longings.

I’d like to suggest two things, then.

First is that we subject our desires to prayer. As fallen creatures, our longings are all over the place — some are good, and some are not! So, to prepare for Pentecost, let’s do as Catholics something we’re not accustomed to doing as Americans: Place our desires before the Holy Spirit for their transformation before we act on them.

Second, we offer a prayer for Christian unity. There are wrong ways to think of that unity and wrong ways to work toward it, but Jesus prayed for it. Lack of unity contradicts the Gospel that we’re trying to proclaim. So, let’s pray that the Spirit will lead us on the right path toward the unity Jesus desired for us.

From the Archive Module

SERVE THE LORD WITH GLADNESS The Holy Spirit can fulfill many of our longings 9598

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