The Force is with You
What’s your image of the Holy Spirit? When I imagine God the Father, I see an old man in a white robe with a long white beard – almost like the wizard Gandalf from Lord of the Rings. When I think of Jesus, I see the image of Him here on the Cross, or an olive-skinned, bearded man with bright eyes, wandering and preaching in Galilee. But the Holy Spirit? I don’t often think of the Spirit in many ways. Certainly, the Spirit has been portrayed, personified, and represented in different ways: a wind blowing over the waters, flame, breath, a dove. However, what to you see when I ask you to envision the Holy Spirit?
Why is that the image? Why is that important? What is so spiritual about a dove hovering over me?
Today, we talk a lot about developing a personal, lived relationship with God. There are many who do not believe that this is possible – at least, not in the sense of a familiarity with God that leads to intimate conversation, trust, and life-changing action. However, we are all about “mystic energy,” the will of “the universe,” and karma. These are unbodied realities (or perceived realities) that many “spiritual” people recognize as the source of their peace and power. It is, literally, the Force.
“May the Force be with you!”
(And with your spirit)
With my spirit? And with your spirit too! This Force – this Holy Spirit – according to Catholic theology and teaching, is a Person: the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity. And, as such, this Person can be in relationship to us. This Force is the life and love of God; it is what allows us to know His will, and it is what empowers us to accomplish that will in the world. Jesus and the Father have sent the Holy Spirit into the Church – into you and me – so that we can have life, joy, and knowledge, and so that we can share that life, joy, and knowledge with others.
It is the Holy Spirit that makes the mission of the Church – the mission of our Parish – possible and fruitful. It is not a “Force” that is privileged to a certain special few – it is not given only to priests or Church professionals – or even to people who like to volunteer for stuff in the Parish. Instead, this Spirit is poured out upon us all, first at our Baptism and again at Confirmation. It is the life force of the entire Church, and it gives diverse missions to everyone, always rooted in Christ’s mission to transform the world and make new disciples among us.
St. Paul recognizes this. “As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.” With this in mind, we cannot relegate the duty of transforming the broken world into a place of peace, joy, and love to other people. We cannot say, “That’s not my job” or “I can’t do anything about this.” That is not the Spirit that we have received.
We fall into a pre-Pentecost trap when we see the fullest expression of our faith as spending one hour a week sitting in these pews, but nothing more. We get comfy sitting here, and as a Church, we simply age in place. We are concerned with “maintenance” and not “mission.” When we come here and think, “Gee, I hope no one took my seat,” we are concerned with maintenance; when we come and hope that the kneeler in my pew isn’t broken, we are concerned with maintenance; when we look around and are satisfied that the “regulars” are all here, we are concerned with maintenance.
However, the Spirit calls us to mission. Therefore, we need to ask tougher discipleship-oriented questions: “How can I share my faith with my brothers and sisters, my neighbors, my coworkers?” “Who am I bringing to this place to encounter Jesus?” “What must change in order to allow that breath of God to blow more clearly in our community?”
We have received a Spirit of courage, power, and persistence. We can make a difference in our world because we have all been given the very Spirit of God. That Force surrounds us, binds us, and animates us – individually and as a Church. In that same Spirit, we do not have to accept injustice, violence, evil, and apathy toward the vulnerable. Jesus gave the Spirit to His Church so that we would do something. That “something” is nothing less than exactly what He did. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
Right now, we are reemerging from the darkness of the coronavirus and its powerful grip on us. We can shrug and say, “OK, let’s get back to where we were in March of 2020,” or we can draw on that power of the Spirit – the Force that animates us – and we can take our gifts, given by God, and begin to move the world in God’s direction.
Pentecost is a reminder to us all that we have a sacred Mission. This mission is to live in the Spirit and to inspire others to do the same. That is what Missionary Discipleship is all about; that is what our Parish is called to do. No one is unimportant or unable in this task. So, draw on that Holy Spirit, and together with us all, let’s do something!