Reflection From our Deacon Tim

Today we celebrate Pentecost, the powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples. We celebrate what is really the birthday of the Church. God sent the Holy Spirit, the breath of God, to enliven and embolden the flock who would lead, guide and shape the Church on earth. While many institutions have come and gone over the past 2,016 years, the one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, which we profess in our creed, remains vibrant, despite the trials and challenges of our time.


I remember learning about my faith from the good sisters of St. Joseph, during my Catholic school days. They taught us about the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Those who grew up in the 50’s and 60’s will no doubt remember this commonly used name for the third person of the Trinity. The reality is that most of us can say something about God the Father and Jesus the Son, but we might have a tougher time describing the Holy Spirit.


I taught faith formation to 8th graders for about eight years in my home parish. My job was to prepare them for Confirmation, which usually happened in the spring of their 8th grade year or the following fall, when they would be in 9th grade. I always found it a little challenging to describe the Holy Spirit. The longer I taught, the more I longed for my students to really have an experience of the Holy Spirit. Well they did!


I got the idea to bring the students into the chapel for a guided meditation. After being sufficiently chastised about modeling appropriate chapel behavior, the students joined in, albeit somewhat unwillingly. We began the exercise. I read the gospel story of the woman who was healed of the 12 year hemorrhage after touching the hem of Christ’s garment. I could see that all eyes were closed. I continued by walking them through a meditation on their own lives, their own physical, mental, and emotional pain. The most powerful moment came when I invited the students to hold out their hand to touch the stole, symbolic of the hem of Christ’s garment, as I passed by them. To my surprise (and God’s glory), every student reached out his or her hand to touch the stole and receive healing.


After we finished the meditation, I asked the students to open their eyes and share their experiences. Their stories were powerful and moving. To close, being the ever-aspiring educator, I asked them to name what had just occurred. I pointed out that the entire chapel was quiet, with everyone focused on the meditation. One particularly brilliant student shouted out, “It was the Holy Spirit!” Indeed it was. Mission accomplished; lesson learned.The point of my sharing this story, is to say that I think we can talk about the Holy Spirit, but it is really necessary for us to experience the Holy Spirit.


Have you ever experienced the Holy Spirit? What was it like? How would you describe it? Perhaps you have been present at Mass, when suddenly and without explanation, you are particularly moved by some part of the Mass. You have this new feeling of the Lord’s presence and the accompanying joy it brings. Or you are sitting alone, praying the rosary, when suddenly and unexplainedly, you hear this voice speaking to your heart, a voice that is calm, clear and affirming. Maybe you find yourself in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, and the hour seems to fly by, because you are so taken up by the emotion that has come over you. What I have just described is the experience of the Holy Spirit in our lives. While words sometimes fail to describe the Holy Spirit, many of us can point to particular moments in our lives when we have had this feeling, this experience, that just seemed to be the Spirit moving in us.


If you have had an experience such as I have described, then you probably have some sense of what the disciples experienced in that upper room. They moved from fear to unimaginable courage. They moved from timidity to boldness. They moved from confusion and inaction to clarity of mission and action.


At every Mass, we have an opportunity to see the Spirit’s power as Father Steven prays the part of the Eucharistic Prayer called the “epiclesis”. This moment, when the Spirit hovers over the altar and the ordinary elements of bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, is signaled by the ringing of bells and the deacon assuming a kneeling position.


Jesus ascended to heaven to return to the Father. Before he left this earth, he promised his disciples that he would send the Holy Spirit. Today we celebrate with great joy the gift of the Spirit in our lives.


In the Joy of the Spirit,


Deacon Tim


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