The nine days we just celebrated between Ascension and Pentecost officially end the Easter season. And while we move on liturgically to Ordinary Time, let us not leave the Holy Spirit behind. 🙂 So many of our recent daily Mass readings reminded us the Holy Spirit is God’s gift to us and the assurance of Jesus’ ongoing presence with us. As I continue to temporarily work out here in Denver on our new priory/novitiate initiative, I’m more grateful than ever for the reminder of the Holy Spirit’s active presence among us. I’m counting on Him!
I first began paying attention to the third person of the Trinity when my grandmother called Him by a different name than I was used to. When my Grandma Powell was over at our house one night, she opened and closed bedtime prayers with: “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.”
I would never have put “holy” and “ghost” in the same mental category, much less in the same sentence. The name itself triggered severe cognitive dissonance for me! Ghosts were those boogie men I had to make a thorough search for every night before the “lights out” command was belted out by my mother, a benign, but no-nonsense drill sergeant. I had to complete my ghost checklist under my bed and dresser, in my closet as well as behind any doors. Only after my grandmother explained that the Holy Ghost was similar in temperament to television’s Casper, the Friendly Ghost was I freer to open my heart to Him. And open my heart I did!
One of the first prayers I learned by rote was: “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful. Enkindle in them the fire of your love.” It is still one of my favorites and reminds me God’s fidelity is like a fierce fire that burns and warms. It is the fierce fidelity “to now,” to this moment, to this hour, to these circumstances of our lives.
The Holy Spirit burns with an urgency that commands our full attention in the present, yanking us from a nagging distraction with the past or a consuming worry about the future. It’s reminiscent of what Martin Luther King, Jr., called “the fierce urgency of now.” The Holy Spirit is the divine energy of love binding the Father and the Son in a warm, rich and deep intimacy in which we are invited to participate by opening ourselves to the Spirit’s life-giving presence within and without. His daily promptings and intuitions are ours for the asking as we proceed on our own return journey home to God’s arms one day.
When Jesus ascended into heaven to return to God the Father, He did not take a leave of absence from us, but “a leave of presence,” to crib a line from the deceased Chicago movie critic Roger Ebert describing his own feelings while leaving his popular Saturday show Siskel & Ebert after a terminal cancer diagnosis. No longer present to his fans and viewers in the same way, Ebert assured them they were very much a part of his mind and heart.
Similarly, Jesus takes a “leave of presence” in the Ascension, remaining engaged in our minds and hearts through the gift of another Advocate for us, the Holy Spirit. This is the gift of a daily companion He and His Father bequeathed to his disciples then and to us today, that we might step forward and continue Jesus‘ mission. Pentecost is the full flowering of that gift of the Holy Spirit.
At times, don’t we as mentors for our children, nieces and nephews, or others at the workplace, stand back so they can step forward? That’s what the Risen Christ does for us. Stepping back, He invites us to step forward to become extensions of His work in the world, to bear witness as the Church to all He said and taught. The Holy Spirit is there to remind us of all Jesus said and did and to give us constant guidance and direction. It is for us not to leave the Holy Spirit behind after this Easter season, but to be open to His daily inspirations in the concrete tasks and responsibilities He calls us to in our daily life.
I shared with you in last month’s letter the critical work the Holy Spirit has now called me to in Denver. I invite you to continue to be a part of that call in whatever way you can. If you’d like further information, let me know.
Not lost in the distractions of the past or consumed by any worries for our future, the Order of Preachers in the Central Province is concentrated on the “fierce urgency of now.” Through this initiative, we will honor the past and secure the future by our actions now on behalf of the young men entrusting their lives to us each year.
Two of those young men, Br. Brent Bowen, O.P., and Br. Brian Zuelke, O.P., demonstrated their commitment and trust in us with their ordinations to the diaconate last weekend in St. Louis. I ask that you help me honor their trust and continue to demonstrate our collective commitment to them. With your prayers and financial support, you welcome the public promises these young men made and help prepare them with the concrete resources they need.
Thank you for all you do and make possible with your unwavering generosity. You are making a difference, NOW.
In the spirit of St. Dominic,