23rd May 2021
St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh
“He (the Spirit) will lead you to the complete truth”
Sadly, too often in life we take things for granted. We take blessings for granted, we take people for granted. We assume that many good elements of our lives will remain the same as they are now. This comes from a kind of forgetfulness even a selfishness possibly. It comes from a feeling of familiarity that dulls our awareness of people, things around us and indeed reality itself.
This happens also in spheres of our faith and religious practice. We become so familiar with religious terms, prayers and practice that over time they lose their edge for us as a source of meaning and direction.
To-day we celebrate Pentecost – an extraordinary moment in the lives of the Apostles and those who were gathered with them in the upper room in Jerusalem. We are told they were fearful because of the Jews. They were feeling deeply in a new way the physical absence of the Lord. They were feeling in a new way the price / cost of speaking in his name. Youcan be sure they huddled together for support – they shared their fear and talked through its challenge. No doubt they began to realise the meaning of the promise of the Lord to go before them into Galilee. We get a sense of the growing realisation of the meaning and truth of the promise “that where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them”.
The signs that accompany and signify that presence onPentecost Day were the tongues of fire, courage, meaning and message. The blessing and gift of the Holy Spirit was not for them alone but for the Church and the world. This Spirit of God, we call holy, needs a body to find concrete expression in family, school, church and community. Hence the declaration “You will be my witnesses”. You and I in the course of our everyday living in faith keep our hearts open to the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We can rattle them off –
Wisdom, understanding, right judgement,
Knowledge, courage, reverence,
Wonder and awe in God’s presence.
The problem for many is, we have become so familiar with the language and too concerned with life’s demands, that we have become lax and indifferent to its richness and depth. Deep down does it matter?
That is when we take so much for granted, we become lazy and a kind of torpor or listlessness take over our life. When this happens, we begin to drift off course – not very much in the beginning but over time we can lose focus entirely. This process is going on right now in Irish society – it is happening for many reasons. It is not to point a finger of blame but rather to alert one another to what is happening in our midst.
While we see great decline in the religious practice of many, there is also a significant number of young adults who are uneasy with the drift they have experienced and are searching for something deeper, real and truthful. He (the Spirit) will lead you to the complete truth.
One of the impacts of the Pandemic that has been identified is that it is an accelerator of change – it has speeded up patterns of change we already experience – this works both ways. The sharp shock of the overall experience has led people to question the treadmill pattern – a pressure, or series of pressures to work, live, play in a certain way.
This has been the blessing in the midst of lockdown. It would be a pity if we missed the opportunity it presents, to make space again for the Spirit within and among us, allowing the promise “to renew the face of the earth” to be fulfilled.