Pentecost: Peace be with you!
Jesus reminds us, one more time, in this season of Easter: “Peace be with you!” His comforting words are far more than a calming mantra, though they are that. The words can serve to slow us down and take a few precious moments to allow ourselves to just be still and know ourselves in the presence of God. I don’t know of a person alive who can’t benefit from an increase of the peace of God.
Pentecost is a good time for reflecting on where in our personal lives we need the gift of the Spirit of God. How do we need the Spirit? There are the seven traditional gifts of the Holy Spirit (wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and a sense of wonder). I’ve written previous posts about each of these gifts. But my mind today is closer to home. What do I need?
It’s fitting that my final post before I face major surgery tomorrow is on the Feast of Pentecost, a feast that celebrates the peaceful assurance of God’s promise to stay with us. I do not have a heightened sense of fear about surgery. I’m a person of faith, so I suppose that part of my confidence has to do with a personal conviction about God’s closeness, a belief that the Spirit of God really does dwell with me. I do not mean that in an overly pious way. I have experienced this throughout my life.
There have been times of doubt and uncertainty. But that is only part of the story. My confidence is much more than faith-based. It’s based in the love and support I experience from family and friends. It’s based on science and medical advances. It’s based in my profound trust in my surgeon and the team working with him. (I’m fortunate enough to have had him for other brain-related surgeries.) It has been informed by the things I have read and witnessed, allowing me to benefit from the experience and wisdom of others. It has been strengthened and deepened by the lunches, coffees, phone calls, email, and rides I have had with friends in recent weeks.The basic truth: I am not alone in this journey. In a world where so many people are indeed alone in their path, I AM NOT ALONE. I go into the operating room with the same confidence I run a marathon: I am not alone! There are many people rooting for me. Is that “rooting” a form of prayer? Isn’t that what we mean when we say we are holding someone in prayer!
So, I have not been dwelling on the surgery or the aftermath. I know that I go into the surgery having done all I can do. And I know that regardless of what the outcome is, there are tremendous resources out there. As I have mentioned before, I live in one of the healthiest and safest and wealthiest and most inclusive nations on the face of the earth. But, here is where I do dwell – I am 61 and, other than a benign tumour, I am in excellent physical and internal shape. I could have several decades ahead of me. There is no reason why I couldn’t live to be 100. I’m 61.
How do I ensure that I live my life giving glory to God? I’ve devoted almost forty years to active engagement with the Roman Catholic Church and the Society of Jesus. I’m not naive. I am well aware of the imperfections of both bodies. I find myself shirking away from the question: Would you do it again? I honestly don’t know that there is a straightforward answer. At 21, I was convinced that I would die a Jesuit. Now I’m not as convinced. Anything is possible.
An essential question for any discernment, for any of us: How will I give glory to God? And an accompanying conviction: God will be with me regardless of what I do with my life. I long ago let go of a notion that God had a plan for me and my life. As Irenaeus reminds us, the glory of God is the human person fully alive. As I look forward to the surgery tomorrow and to whatever my life brings, I have to hold on to the reminder from today’s Gospel and the predominant Gospel message of Easter: “Peace be with you.”