Sunday, May 19, 2013
The success of the movie, Avatar, made 3-D film-making popular again. With 3-D technology, the viewers get the sense that they are in the middle of the action, that it is taking place all around them. It is an effective way of making the on-screen action more exciting for the audience.
Of course, to have the full effect, the viewer must be wearing special 3-D glasses. Without the glasses, one can still follow the plot, but the thrill of the action is not as intense. It is through the glasses that the audience is brought into the middle of the adventure making them part of the full experience.
The gift of the Holy Spirit is much like those special 3-D glasses. We can manage to live without his power and presence in our lives, and sadly many people do. But by doing so, we do not experience life in its fullness. We do not grasp the real purpose for our existence which can only be found in the God who created us in his image and likeness. Without the Holy Spirit we can manage to get by, but there is much that we will miss along the way.
Today we bring the Easter season to a close by celebrating the feast of Pentecost. It is the day when Jesus' promise to his disciples that they would be clothed with power from on high was fulfilled. While they were gathered in prayer with the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Spirit rushed down upon them like a mighty wind. With this gift of power, the Church was born. The good news would now be preached to the ends of the earth.
Like 3-D glasses, the Holy Spirit made the apostles see things differently. Before they were afraid, hiding behind locked doors. Now they boldly enter the streets of Jerusalem proclaiming to all that Jesus is risen. Before they could not understand the meaning of Jesus' suffering and death. Now with the eyes of the Spirit they understand that his death was necessary for the salvation of the world. Before they were simple friends and followers of Jesus. Now, clothed with power from on high, they are the ones who will carry Jesus' teaching to the ends of the earth. With the vision that only the Holy Spirit can give, the apostles see things in a whole new way.
That gift of the Holy Spirit is not just for the apostles. Rather he has been poured out on each of us through baptism and confirmation. We do not look different because of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. However, with the eyes of faith, we know that he is transforming us day by day, leading us from fear into confidence, from ignorance to understanding and from darkness into light. We understand that the Holy Spirit is opening our eyes to the wonders God is working all around us.
How is it that the Holy Spirit helps us to see our lives and our world in a whole new way?
The Spirit helps us to see that we are the temple of God. Jesus tells us that if we believe in him and are obedient to his commandments then the Father and he will come to make their home within us. We are each carrying within us the presence of the Living God. Whenever we enter a church, we genuflect before the tabernacle because it holds Jesus' body. But Jesus is also present in our hearts in just as real a way. In fact, our hearts are the place he most longs to dwell.
Because the Holy Spirit helps us to see that God is present within us, we treat our bodies with care and respect. We dress modestly. We are careful about how much we eat and drink because we want to nourish our bodies and keep them healthy. We keep our thoughts pure and focused on God, and we avoid using foul language because we understand that we are always in the presence of the Most High God. The Holy Spirit helps us to see our dignity as daughters and sons of God.
If through the Holy Spirit, we can see our dignity as children of God, then we will also recognize that same dignity in the people we meet each day. We will treat them with the care and respect they deserve as temples of the Most High God no matter how they look and no matter their social status. If they are hungry, we will feed them. If they are sad, we will cry with them. If they are lonely, we will be their friends. Without the vision that only the Holy Spirit would give, we would see them as strangers. However, with the gift of faith, we see them as brothers and sisters whom we may never abandon.
If we have been living without the presence and power of the Holy Spirit then we have not been seeing things as they are. We have been missing out on all that life has to offer us. This feast day is an opportunity for us to look within and reflect on the powerful gift we received at our baptism and confirmation. It is time to reclaim our dignity as children of God and to welcome the presence of God into our hearts so that we can begin to see ourselves and others differently and to live fully the life that God is calling us to.
If the presence and action of the Holy Spirit still seems hard for us to understand, one good step to take would be to ask our Blessed Mother to pray for us. She knows in a personal way how powerful the Spirit is. It was by that power that she conceived Jesus and the words of the angel, "Nothing is impossible with God", were fulfilled. She was also present on that day when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles. Because she wants to lead us to Jesus, she will certainly pray that we come to understand the presence of the Spirit in our lives and begin to draw on his power to fight temptation and to do good for those around us.