Today we are celebrating the great feast of Pentecost. It begins with a picture of a frightened people, people crippled, imprisoned by fear.
Fear of a very deadly sort, a kind of quiet dread that gnaws away at us. So quiet in fact we may not even be able to give it a name. Far from prodding us to fight or run, this sort of fear does quite the opposite. It drags us down, ties weights to our hands and feet. It tells us, as it told the apostles, “Lock yourselves in your room. Find a corner and stay there. Don’t try anything because nothing you try is going to work out anyway. You don’t have the ability, the strength, or even the charm to accomplish anything very valuable. Make no effort, take no risk, because if you do, you will fail.”
The Apostles, newly commissioned by Christ to go out to all the world as his witnesses, locked in a room, frightened of everything outside of that room. Frightened of persecution, certainly, but frightened too of ridicule, their own ignorance, the immenseness of their vocation, and the likelihood of their failure.
And had the event described for us in this first reading not happened, that would have been the history of all humankind. But it did happen. Again, with the weakness of human nature, God merged the strength of his own divine nature. With the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles and all believers were given the ability to go beyond themselves, to draw on more than they ever thought they had.
We too, have the spirit of courage, the ability to go beyond ourselves. We are called, just as was the Apostles, to a deep experience of the presence of the spirit in our lives. We are called to let him work wonders through us. And he does. Every one of us has had such an experience. Anytime we make an investment of ourselves in someone else’s welfare, an investment of time or energy, or talent or wealth, and do so fairly certain that there will be no reward, perhaps not even any gratitude…any time we ask God for help, and keep on asking, even though there seems to be no help coming…anytime we say with confidence that God is indeed Lord of the world, that he gives it purpose and meaning, even though that can be hard to see sometimes…anytime we make a real act of faith, just let ourselves go, completely, perhaps even desperately into God’s hands and experience that surrender or victory, then we are truly caught up in the moment of the Spirit.
We are going far beyond what human beings can do on their own. As the Gospel tells us, God has indeed breathed on us, and we have been filled with the Holy Spirit.
Let’s not be afraid and put our trust in God.