Life in the Spirit Mass, St. Cronan’s Church, Crusheen, Co. Clare, October 8th, 2018
A Triad of themes
In learning what this occasion was about – I was given three areas, themes or guidelines to reflect on. Because it is a Life in the SpiritMass – the celebration of the Holy Spirit is at the centre of our deliberations. The second theme I was given is the centrality of getting to know Jesus in His Word and the third theme of encouraging you to keep refelcting on the wonderful letter of Pope Francis, The joy of the Gospel!
The Centrality of the Spirit
I met a lady in the parish office in Ennis last year and she spoke at length at what she perceived was the neglect of the Church to speak about and celebrate the Holy Spirit. I was somewhat surprised because in a sense the Holy Spirit is the beginning and end of all that we do. Bun agus barras the Irish Phrase goes. None of us would be here this evening if it wasn’t for the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Every time we are inclined to bless ourselves and say a prayer it is at the encouragement of the Holy Spirit. Every single prayer we make is Trinitarian, to God, through Jesus and in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Trinity, what the mystics desribed as Mercy, within Mercy, within Mercy is at the heart of all we do and say as Church.
In our efforts to be open to the presence the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit – it is often a struggle and challenge to visualise the face of the same spirit.
Face of God
In praying, in relating, in experiencing God – it is hugely helpful to be able to visualise the face of Jesus or God the Father or Mary Mother of God.
Clear manifestation of God – in Bible
It’s interesting that manifestations of God in the Bible were nearly always accompanied with dramatic occurences of nature, something that is visible, audible and appeals to our senses. Thunder accompanied God’s revelation at Sinai. God spoke to Job from a whirlwind. He spoke to Moses from a burning bush. Impression of the spirit, however seems to be generally quiet and invisible. All the above mentioned manigestations of God are audible and visible, helping for it to stand out clearly in our senses.
In the Word of God on Pentecost Sunday the coming of the Spirit is accompanied with vivid and dramatic events. In the Upper room in the first reading – the Spirit comes with a powerful wind. In the Gospel account the Spirit is in a slightly less dramatic but perhaps none the less effective medium – in a gentle breeze.
The interesting account of the outpouring of the spirit and the preaching of the Gospel to all nations are greatly added to by the memorable special effects that to me are most helpful in capturing / visualising a sense of the presence of the HS.
Evie Hone Window of Pentecost
An image that I have often found helpful in visualising the Holy Spirit is potrayed in an Evie Hone – Pentecost Window in Manresa House, the Jesuit Centre for Spirituality in Dublin. In the stained glass – the disciples, fearful, down-cast are gathered around a motherly and focused Mary, Mother of God. The Holy Spirit at the top of the window appears in the shape of the dove to inspire, to lead to guide as Mary has been doing. It’s an account of the power of the Spirit to transform and enlighten us in time of darkness and need.
Being under the influence of the Holy Spirit
In St. Paul’s epistles – there’s an interesting phrase – being Under the influence of the Holy Spirit. It’s an interesting phrase to ask ourselves – if we are that exactly, as we proclaim that Jesus is Lord and the Spirit is at the centre of all that we do as we focus on Life in the Spirit gatherings here every Monday night. If we are – it really must transform our mode of being within and without. Raniero Cantalemessa, the preacher at the Papal Household speaks eloquently on this topic and has written so well on it in a number of publications. He uses the term being intoxicated by the Spirit!
Points in the Gospel
In John’s Gospel – the Resurrection and bestowal of the Spirit account – has many interesting points worth highligting. I’ll just mention one tonight.
The heart of the account is when Jesus confers the spirit on the apostles. Breathing on them is reminiscent of the creation of Adam in Genesis. Jesus potrays himself and the spirit as one who creates or recreates.
As Spiritual people, in the true sense of the word – we are conscious that we are constantly being created and recreated by the life giving presence of the Holy Spirit. It gives us courage in celebrating, living and expressing our faith. It should give us courage to go out in public and say to all we meet, even in these post referendum times that we are Christian and proud to be and not be be apologetic for that.
As Pentecost people – may the face of the Spirit of God fall afresh on us all. May we be under the influence of the same Spirit to receive the gift and fruits and transformative power to live and love and like the disciples of St. John’s Gospel and proclaim the Good News to all nations.
Word of God
The other big theme we focus on is the importance of getting to know Jesus by constant reflection, meditation and contemplation of the Word of God. The Irish term for the Word of God is Briathar Dé. Briatharis the word for a verb which is an action word. The word of God is alive and active and as scripture says cuts more finely than any double edged sword.
Scripture – the Mouth Kiss of God
I’m always interested to note the enormous reverence that the Jewish people had for the word of God, how sacred and revered the scriptures are for them. The gesture of kissing or venerating the Word of God at the Gospel is something of great importance to us as Christians. I’m always interested in the way some priests when they complete the reading of the Gospel at Mass say the words ; “Through the words of the Gospel – may our sins be washed away”!
Origen – the Mouth Kiss of God
Origen, one of the early Church Fathers when reflecting on this reverence for the Word of God and on the word being made flesh he described scripture as “the mouth kiss of God”. What a wonderful image to enliven the Gospel from St. John – the word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us. The Word of God as the “Mouth Kiss of God”, the loving embrace of the eternal!
RMS Leinster – Centenary Celebration (Anecdote)
St. John’s Gospel in the Cathedral in Ennis yesterday…
Presentation of the Gospel of St. John…
Centernary Mass for the sinking of the RMS Leinster…
So poignant to have a copy of the Gospel of St. John that was presented to military going to sea.
The Joy of the Gospel
The third and final theme – encouragement to continue to reflect on the Joy of the Gospel!
Benedict & Francis – Contrasting Styles
One of the many things that I love about Pope Francis is that time and time again like an excellent and inspiring teacher he brings us back to the basics of our faith. Along-with that he has an amazingly inspiring presence. They say that one of the big differences between Pope Benedict and Pope Francis is that with Benedict you came to hear him, but with Francis you come to see and experience some of that charisma. I remember some years ago completing the Via Francigena, the Italian Camino and arriving into Rome being at the general Wednesday audience with Pope Benedict. He spoke brilliantly for about 30 minutes and then went up and down once in the pope-mobile. However, some years later with Pope Francis the experience with him was totally different. He spoke very well for about 5 minutes but spent the remaining 45 minutes or so driving up and down, stopping to meet, greet and hug people on the way. His presence was electric and the congregation came alive!
The Writings of Pope Francis
However along with his electrifying presence I’m a huge fan of his writings! I love the simplicity & transparent joy of the titles & content of his major works.
The Joy of the Gospel – his first major work.
The Joy of Love – on love & the family.
The Name of God is Mercy – in advance of the Year of Mercy.
Praise be to You – Laudato Sion ecology & the environment.
But most of all – Rejoice & be Glad– his most recent work on the universal call of everyone to holiness.
Rejoice & be Glad – Gaudete et Exsultate
Back to basics – the great teacher Francis reminds us in this beautiful letter, Rejoice and be Gladthat he issued on the feast of St Joseph this March that our fundamental call in life is to live good lives, go be holy to save our souls and get to heaven.
The Joy of the Gospel
In the Joy of the Gospel we are encouragned to share the Good News, to be bold in proclaiming our faith, to move from maintainance to Mission in terms of faith! In the Joy of the Gospel we get an ongoing sense of the enthusiasm of the joyfulness of the Gospel. No more than the presence of the Holy Spirit the deep down joy of being people of faith, being redeemed in Jesus Christ should make a huge qulaitative difference to our lives in so many ways, in mind body and spirit.