The feast of Pentecost celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit. If ever there was a time we needed discernment and guidance instead of our own hardheartedness, now is the time. And in some ways, we have lost our ability to listen to the Holy Spirit. We can see that because the fruits of the Holy Spirit aren’t abundantly flowing in our Christian communities or in the world. Do you see a lot of evidence of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness or self-control? St. Paul in his letter to the Galatians, chapter 5, gave us the measurements for the presence of the Holy Spirit. These fruits of the Holy Spirit should be flowing abundantly if we have received the gift of the Holy Spirit and sought the Spirit’s guidance.
We seem to have become better at arguing with one another, failing to listen to one another, stirring up trouble in each other’s lives, spending more time looking at other people’s lives rather than our own and becoming so afraid that we are hoarding objects. We are so ready to call each other names or make judgments against one another.
However, this isn’t a time for panic or despair. This isn’t the first time, and probably won’t be the last, when we experience moving so far away from listening to God that we feel surrounded by uncertainty, insecurity and anxiety. For those of us who believe in God’s goodness and in the faithfulness of His promises, we always have a way back to hope. That journey back to hope includes humility and a shedding of arrogance.
To become more humble, we simply need to follow the example of Jesus at the Last Supper. Even as He sat at a table with those who would betray and abandon Him, He chose to take His robes off and wash the feet of His disciples. He took the place of a slave or a servant instead of the master. That humility opened Him to what was ahead, listening to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and following it with His last breath. His humility allowed Him to choose to love when others hated. It allowed Him to forgive even though He had every reason to seek revenge.
Shedding our arrogance is a bit more difficult than developing the virtue of humility. Arrogance is the belief that I am better than you, I know better than you, I am more correct than you and it is my job to put you in your place. Those beliefs are hard to change because those who are arrogant don’t believe they need to change, but feel everyone else should change instead.
Rather than allowing our celebration of Pentecost this year to be simply another feast in the Easter season, this could truly be a time in which all of us as a community decide to humble ourselves enough to believe that God might know better than we do. Let’s look for His guidance by simply listening more, talking less and taking on the virtue of humility. We know from the first Pentecost that allowing the Holy Spirit to influence our lives will entail change, a need to sacrifice and an openness to new ways of living as disciples of Jesus.
Listen carefully to what happens when the early apostles and disciples allow the Holy Spirit to begin to influence them. Communication opens with people that they never would have imagined they could talk to. The places where they were locked in and afraid were broken open and removed. Instead of being stuck in one place and being afraid to act, they were set free to live a deeper life, motivated by their love for Jesus and the effect that He had on their lives.
That can be scary but I hope it is enticing for you. What would life be like if you could shed your fear? How would life be different if you could actually begin to speak to people with whom you were separated right now? How would it be for you to wake up every morning with a purpose of spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ in your family, at your workplace, in your worshiping community and in your circle of friends? We really need to make this Pentecost effective this year.
Father Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.