For Sunday, May 15, 2016, Pentecost Sunday
The house shook! Doors slammed! Curtains billowed! The winds screamed as they raced through the house! Was there a trace of smoke riding along? Even the patio screen door banged open! Our hearts began racing with fear of a tornado. Should we seek shelter? There was no basement in this summer lake house. There had been storm warnings, but no wailing sirens in the middle of the night. After about fifteen minutes, Mother Nature seemed to go back to sleep and so did we. The next day the media reported deaths and injuries from nearby tornadoes. Our short-lived fear had a basis.
Later that week, the winds roared through Fort McMurray in Alberta. Those winds whipped fire into that oil sand region causing 88,000 people to flee through tunnels of fire. They abandoned their homes and property, running for their lives. Many lost everything. This region, which produces a million barrels of oil per day, collapsed into chaos, victim of wind and fire.
Wind and fire leave chaos in their wake … disorder, destruction, and even loss of life, both human and animal. Chaos! We humans are left simply standing and staring, not knowing where to begin. But begin we must, just as nature renews after the devastation.
On that first Pentecost there was wind and fire in Jerusalem! Buildings were not destroyed. Property wasn’t burned, but there was chaos. That fire tornado blew through the whole known world. Everything was turned topsy-turvy. Lives were completely redirected. Long-standing institutions were faced with challenges never expected. There was fear … fear of change and fear of new directions. The Spirit of God, the very breath of God, blew mightily. It brought new life to our human race, just as the breath of God brought life to Adam, the first human, in the Garden of Eden.
Inevitably, the chaos of fire and wind brings fear. It also brings excitement and heightened awareness. The challenge of catastrophe brings out the best and the worst in people. If there are looters, there are also heroes. Fire Captain Adam Bugden of Fort McMurray emotionally stated, “I’ve met more heroes in this experience than I ever thought existed.” The same could be said of the fire and wind of Pentecost. Our heroes have names: Peter, Stephen, Paul, Barnabas, Mark, John. Down through the ages the number of heroes has grown into multitudes. How does this happen?
“The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” The Holy Spirit is, in reality, the very breath of God. According to the Ruah Woods website, “Ruah means both wind and breath – sometimes as subtle as the flap of the wings of a dove or a whisper at the mouth of a cave.” No chaos here. The breath of God brings peace and harmony. The breath of God brings courage to would-be heroes.
We need to be open to that breath. The winds of the Spirit, the fire of the Spirit, are with us, still. Chaos may be present in our world and in our lives, but we have the Spirit with us always! The Spirit of peace deep in our hearts.
“Breathe on Me, Breath of God” is a popular Gospel hymn by Edwin Hatch that prays:
Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Till I am wholly Thine
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with Thy fire divine.
Patricia M. DeGroot
Come, Holy Spirit, come!
And from your celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine!
Come, Father of the poor!
Come, source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine.
You, of comforters the best;
You, the soul’s most welcome guest;
Sweet refreshment here below;
In our labor, rest most sweet;
Grateful coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.
O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of yours,
And our inmost being fill!
Where you are not, we have naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.
Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:
Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.
On the faithful, who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gift descend;
Give them virtue’s sure reward;
Give them your salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end. Amen.
—Veni, Sancte Spiritus sequence from the Mass of Pentecost. Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 CCD. All rights reserved.