By Father Jim Ronan
Have you ever felt inspired? Ever seen a movie, heard a concert or performance and felt the actors and performers were inspired? How about a talk or speech – ever been inspired by something like that? What does it mean to be inspired?
Well technically one could say it means to “be – in – spirit”. It is one of those things that are hard to define, yet one can recognize it when seen. And it is hard because it is not tangible, not measurable or quantifiable. One could describe an event as “very inspiring” and everyone would know the person was touched, moved inside, lifted up to a level of feeling and awareness – taken to some almost new place … I cannot imagine anyone who does not like the experience of being inspired.
On Sunday, June 9, Christians will celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, recalling the day on which the Holy Spirit came down upon the Apostles. The immediate impact of the event was that these men stepped out into the world and spoke, in a very inspiring way, about Jesus. The rest is history.
Christianity was born on that feast – even called the “birthday of the Church”. Jesus had promised the sending of the Holy Spirit and had explained that the Spirit would be an “Advocate”, a “Helper”. As the centuries past, the Church came to understand more and more of the role of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the active, dynamic force and power of God in the world each moment of every day.
A Christian receives the gift of the Holy Spirit at the moment of Baptism and the fullest gifts of the Spirit in Confirmation. And yet most Christians are not too aware of the presence of the Spirit in their lives. Again, the Spirit moves like a breeze – no one knows where it comes from or where it goes to – yet one certainly knows it is real. So how “In-Spirit” are you and are your days?
For me, I use the “surprise index” (something I just made up!) to gauge this. By this I mean the number of times I become aware of something I say or do and I am surprised – I do not know where that came from and how it is it came to me. I believe the Spirit of God works in all who have received the Spirit and are open to God’s Grace. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are seven: Wisdom, Understanding, Right Judgment, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety and Wonder & Awe. Looking closely at these gifts and their presence in a person’s life is truly an experience of seeing the Holy Spirit in action.
For example, listening to a truly wise person; one who sees the deeper meaning in life’s events and finds God’s presence in all of nature and creation. One who can see the truth with clarity and treats others with dignity. Such a person’s gifts are hard to measure and a wonder to behold – indeed the work of the Holy Spirit! The Spirit is generous, ubiquitous and delightful. The Spirit is playful, fun and wonderful. The Spirit is deep, serious and profound and so much more.
I believe the Holy Spirit flows from God the Father and God the Son and is the ever present movement of God in our world. For me, who spends each day in ministry in the Church, I realize my constant companion is the Holy Spirit and what a joy that is! And as I consider all of the many gifts and foibles of our beloved Church, I am also convinced that the Church will endure, not because of the competency of Popes and Bishops, rather because of the enduring presence of God’s loving Holy Spirit abiding in and with this Church. And this Church includes you and me!