Sunday, June 12, 2011, is Pentecost Sunday (Liturgical Year A, Cycle I).
Acts 2:1-11; Psalm 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34; 1 Corinthians 12:3-7, 12-13; John 20:19-23
Christianity sometimes does not always feel like what it is cracked up to be. While Christ promises a “peace beyond understanding,” we still have stress and worry. Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always,” but sometimes the Lord is just another thing on our to-do list. St. Augustine says, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you,” but our hearts often just feel restless.
In each of these cases, the Holy Spirit is the missing key to our happiness. He is the unused access we have to the peace, joy and rest the Gospel promises.
Our stress often comes from difficult interpersonal relationships. In the first reading, we see how the Holy Spirit unites people. The coming of the Holy Spirit removes the language barrier between Parthian, Medes and Elamites. In our own time, the Holy Spirit can remove the language barrier between people because of misunderstandings, due to old divisions, etc.
This removal of barriers is a great benefit to us, but God does not remove the barriers just to make us happy. He also does this so that we can serve him better. In the second reading, St. Paul shows how this new unity expresses itself in a Church functioning with many parts as one body.
We should try praying to the Holy Spirit for the ability to communicate with those we seem to have no way of talking to: that family member; that former friend; that boss at work. Tell the Holy Spirit that you leave the communication in his hands, and let him sort it out.
Our unhappiness also can come from our own personal failings. In the Gospel, which discusses the first “outpouring of the Holy Spirit” in a different setting and a different interpretation, this is the first place the Holy Spirit touches. Christ’s gift of the Holy Spirit is first a gift of forgiveness. Jesus breathes on the apostles and gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit. He says that as the Father sent him, he sends them. Their mission is simple: Forgive sins. That mission of forgiveness, found in the confessional, is the greatest restorer of happiness we have access to.
Our examination of conscience should find lots of sins that inhibit our happiness — and inhibit the happiness of others. We often waste our time looking for peace in pleasures that are consumed and then gone, seeking a quick gain at the expense of a deeper value.
Quick tip: Make a list of some things that will help you in your faith journey, and then give it a try, whether it’s morning prayer, participation in good works, sacrificing for the person who upsets you, etc. Set a small goal for each item and ask the Holy Spirit to be your partner along the way.
A dedicated, habitual relationship with the Holy Spirit can build a totally different, and better, life, if we trust in his power and take one step after another in the direction he sets.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas.