Pentecost: Experiencing the Holy Spirit
Anyone who’s been following the general theme of my homilies for the last 6 months will realise that I’ve been preaching almost exclusively – apart from funnel-homilies – on the significant difference between faith being something that we do verses something/someone whom we experience. To experience the love and intimacy which Jesus offers us in and through the power of the Holy Spirit is one of the great adventures of the Christian life. I was lucky enough to experience the Lord many years ago, even before I had developed the faith-based literacy to realise what I was receiving and even the desire to ask God for such experiences.
Sadly however, there are many Christians who find it difficult to circumvent their acts of faith being limited to something they do, even on a Sunday; I think my parents were of this ilk. Growing up, we faithfully attended Mass every Sunday, we said grace before dinner, we went to Confession twice a year before Easter and Christmas, and we said the Rosary as a family at the start of a long car journey. Faith was, however, something we did, rather than a person to encounter. Sure, my parents did the best with the faith they had, and I thank them for what they gave me, but I often wonder what my childhood/adolescence would’ve been like if instead, we’d celebrated Mass on Sundays, if we’d prayed grace and the rosary, or if Reconciliation was something we celebrated – can you see the difference in language?
In a beautiful passage from the Acts of the Apostles for our Feast of Pentecost this Sunday, we read that the disciples both heard and saw the Holy Spirit as she came down upon them and into their very being – they experienced something amazing. God’s deepest desire is to be known and loved by every person in the world and to help make that happen, God often comes to us through our senses and imagination.
Sometimes I imagine God to be like Hansel and Gretel, dropping white pebbles for us to follow and find God for ourselves. You may remember that pivotal moment in the fairy tale when the step-mother locks the front door, preventing Hansel and Gretel from gathering more pebbles during the night to drop on their forced journey into the forest. Bereft of pebbles, Hansel and Gretel resort to dropping breadcrumbs to find their way home instead, but find that they’re all eaten by birds. Sometimes it may seem like God drops breadcrumbs for us which are eaten up by birds before we can find them. Rest assured though, God drops not breadcrumbs, but pebbles (experiences). They may not all be white pebbles like in Hansel and Gretel – some may appear camouflaged – but pebbles/experiences they are, and all we have to do is actively search for them and follow the trail to the one whose only desire is to be known and loved.
Right now, my deepest desire is that other people might encounter the Lord in deeply intimate and life-changing ways. My prayer, my preaching, and every effort I can offer, is aimed at helping people discover the Power of the Holy Spirit who is already in them. And so I’d like to make an invitation to you: if you feel like you’re missing something in your faith life; if you have a desire for more; if you’re interested in encountering the One whose desire is to encounter you – or even desire to be simply filled up – drop me an email or a note in the office. I’d like to run another Encounter Night somewhere in the parish but I’m open to when and where that might happen. I look forward to hearing from you.
Peace and blessings