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Bible Reflections View Comments

Trusting the Movement of the Spirit
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, May 19, 2013
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In the story of Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles, we hear about the small group of Jesus’s closest friends hiding in the upper room, trying to make sense of the hatred that had led to his death, the astonishing mystery of his resurrection and his final departure to return to his Father and the heavenly kingdom. It’s no coincidence that they were spending that time in prayer.

As Jesus had promised, the Holy Spirit comes to them in the form of a strong, driving wind and as tongues of fire. The Spirit fills them with courage, sending them forth to preach—and to live—the Gospel. It didn’t mean that their struggles were over. But it was an undeniable assurance that God was with them.

The gift of the Spirit was about overcoming fear and hiding, shame and regret. It was about opening up the community to the power of the Gospel message. When Blessed John XXIII talked about the Second Vatican Council, he referred to it as opening windows long closed and letting in the Spirit to renew the Church. Like spring cleaning, this is something that needs to be done on a regular basis.

As we celebrate Pentecost this year, we’re more aware than ever of the need for the Spirit’s continued presence in our midst—guiding, inspiring, protecting the Gospel and all that is truly holy from the fear and the secrecy and the mistakes of the past.

Wind and fire are frequent images in the Scriptures for the presence and power of God. As we know all too well from the natural world, fire and wind can be both blessing and curse, can lead to life and death.

The prophets speak of fire as burning away the impurities of metal, or burning that chaff that’s been separated from the wheat. Things that obscure the truth need to be burned away. The fire of the Spirit is able to do that without burning or destroying what is still good and beautiful and true in our faith, in our Church, in our own lives.

Even as we watch events unfolding in the universal Church, we ourselves experience upheavals in our smaller communities—parishes, workplaces, families—and in our own lives. Whenever we’re struggling to break through some obstacle, illness, or misunderstanding, we can call on the fire of the Spirit to strengthen and encourage us.

Pentecost is a new beginning, a fresh start. Taking a new approach is rarely easy. The response of the crowd to the preaching of the apostles on the morning of Pentecost was that surely they must have been drinking. Several times they were thrown into prison for going against the authorities. But they were convinced that the Spirit was leading them in the right direction.

We know from our own lives that attempts to overcome mistakes in our past can haunt us long after the reality is something entirely new and different. The Spirit can help us persist in working against these prejudices and give us the courage to continue to speak out for genuine change.

We go forth not because we’re strong, capable, and sure of ourselves, but because we know that God is with us when we truly do his work. Pentecost reminds us that Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, is in fact still in charge of the Church that he established among his first followers.


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Peter of Alcantara: Peter was a contemporary of well-known 16th-century Spanish saints, including Ignatius of Loyola and John of the Cross. He served as confessor to St. Teresa of Avila. Church reform was a major issue in Peter’s day, and he directed most of his energies toward that end. His death came one year before the Council of Trent ended. 
<p>Born into a noble family (his father was the governor of Alcantara in Spain), Peter studied law at Salamanca University and, at 16, joined the so-called Observant Franciscans (also known as the discalced, or barefoot, friars). While he practiced many penances, he also demonstrated abilities which were soon recognized. He was named the superior of a new house even before his ordination as a priest; at the age of 39, he was elected provincial; he was a very successful preacher. Still, he was not above washing dishes and cutting wood for the friars. He did not seek attention; indeed, he preferred solitude.</p><p>Peter’s penitential side was evident when it came to food and clothing. It is said that he slept only 90 minutes each night. While others talked about Church reform, Peter’s reform began with himself. His patience was so great that a proverb arose: "To bear such an insult one must have the patience of Peter of Alcantara."</p><p>In 1554, Peter, having received permission, formed a group of Franciscans who followed the Rule of St. Francis with even greater rigor. These friars were known as Alcantarines. Some of the Spanish friars who came to North and South America in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries were members of this group. At the end of the 19th century, the Alcantarines were joined with other Observant friars to form the Order of Friars Minor.</p><p>As spiritual director to St. Teresa, Peter encouraged her in promoting the Carmelite reform. His preaching brought many people to religious life, especially to the Secular Franciscan Order, the friars and the Poor Clares.</p><p>He was canonized in 1669.</p> American Catholic Blog Remember the widow’s mite. She threw into the treasury of the temple only two small coins, but with them, all her great love…. It is, above all, the interior value of the gift that counts: the readiness to share everything, the readiness to give oneself. —Pope John Paul II

 
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