June – filled with celebrations and endings as beginnings
So much happens in June! Is there any visitor to this site who has not received at least one invitation to celebrate a wedding, graduation, maybe even an ordination, or religious profession of vows? These invitations celebrate milestones on a journey for a member of our immediate family or someone we have walked with.
Each event is special! A couple celebrates a love that has blossomed. A graduate has completed a phase in both widening personal horizons and becoming more skilled in life. A candidate for a ministry celebrates a commitment.
Yet each shares something in common. All mark milestones in a journey. Milestone literally refers to a roadside marker that situates the distance one has traveled as well as how far one has yet to go. Symbolically it speaks of the distance we have traveled along the road of our lives… and reminds us how far we have yet to go.
So as we celebrate the event, we should never lose sight of the event as a process with a “before” and an “after”.
Pentecost as both event and process
I must admit that I have tended to focus on Pentecost as an event. Sadly, it is rare when I think of the Pentecost of my life known as confirmation. However, I do celebrate Pentecost as a historical event each year. I pray for the gifts of the spirit. But I rarely think of Pentecost as a process still happening in my life.
St. Luke clearly understood Pentecost was both. His two-volume work, the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, is built around this understanding. His gospel builds to the Ascension, setting the stage for Pentecost. He tells the stories of the disciples beginning to know and follow Jesus. The “before” of Pentecost.
The Act of the Apostles picks up after the Ascension. He briefly describes the event of Pentecost. He then writes 28 chapters about the ongoing process of understanding and living in the light of Pentecost. His stories describe the process of learning to “put on the mind of Christ.” The Holy Spirit appears 59 times in the book of Acts, and in 36 of those appearances, the Spirit is speaking. One could think of it as the Acts of the Spirit.
I am beginning to appreciate the Acts of the Apostles as the story of an on-going process beyond the event. Acts recapitulates the arc of a historical process beginning with the Spirit of God hovering over the chaos of the waters, through the individual lives of Moses, the Prophets, right up to the “after” of Pentecost.
The outpouring of the spirit in our individual lives
Sometimes the Spirit works us in dramatic events. Saul learned this on the road to Damascus. More often the Spirit speaks to us in the daily events of our lives as the two disciples on the way to Emmaus came to realize.
In either case, listening to the spirit is a process of deepening understanding rather than a ”one and done” event.
Most often the Spirit speaks in the silence of our hearts through our conscience. Unfortunately, we do not always listen to these “mini-Pentecosts”. Our ears seem filled with wax!
We need to tune ourselves to the often soft volume the Spirit. We need to be aware that sometimes the Spirit even speaks to others through us and our lives.
We would do well to consider the quiet impulses of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control… gifts of the Spirit.
Openness to the process of Pentecost
- Can we accept that Pentecost is a process more than an event?
- Do we listen for the Spirit’s still small voice?
Click below for an audio version of this Vincentian Mindwalk