Reflections During the Pandemic
There has been more time to reflect during the pandemic. Here are some reflections on the daily readings on empowerment, protection and perfection.
The disciples hid in the Upper Room, in fear of suffering the same fate as their master, hoping no one would find them. The Holy Spirit came busting in like a hurricane.
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. (Acts 2: 1-6)
On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit empowered the disciples to come out of isolation. All the Jews could hear them in their own language. That is a gift of the Holy Spirit – to enable us to communicate the message of Jesus Christ. I wonder where the Holy Spirit will point us to communicate in this electronic age. I wonder how we can help all people understand the language of the Spirit.
“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5: 13-16)
I learned from the meditation website Pray As You Go (https://pray-as-you-go.org/player/prayer/2020-06-09) that this reading demonstrates that Jesus didn’t want his disciples to be shrinking violets. He calls His people to be confident, unafraid to be counted. The Spirit empowers us to be confident.
We are all praying for protection from the coronavirus, which remains a deadly threat to our entire world. In the gospel on the sixth Sunday of Easter, Jesus reassures us of God’s continuing help and protection.
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you… I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. “ (John 14: 16-18)
The word advocate is an English synonym used for the term paraclete, the original word used in the reading. Our pastor Fr. Earl Smith SJ used the following analogy in a sermon, and I have always been very reassured by it. It’s great to know that someone always has your back.
“When Jesus promised that He would send the Holy Spirit to the believers as “the Helper”, the text uses the Greek word paraclete… which is an ancient warrior’s term. Greek soldiers went to battle in pairs, so when the enemy attacked they could draw together back to back, covering each other’s blind side. Your battle partner was called your paraclete.” (Healing the Masculine Soul, Gordon Dalbey)
The saving protection God gives was very exciting to witness in Peter’s and Paul’s escapes from prison.
Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his wrists. The angel said to him, “Fasten your belt and put on your sandals.” He did so. Then he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” (Acts12: 7-8)
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. (Acts 16: 25-26)
Of the many references to the Holy Spirit during the ongoing pandemic, I saved this description of the Spirit that abides in us:
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. (Isaiah 11:2)
Side-by-side we all walk with the wise Spirit, our paraclete, to fight alongside us and defend us.
“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5: 44-48)
Pray As You Go (https://pray-as-you-go.org/player/prayer/2020-06-16) suggested substituting “perfect” with “ complete.” The Word Among Us meditation for the same day described “perfect” as dynamic – something one is always growing into.
Aristotle, who died in 322 B.C., defined “three shades of one meaning” of perfect: something which is complete — which contains all the requisite parts; which is so good that nothing of the kind could be better; and which has attained its purpose. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perfection)
It is inspiring but comfortable to strive to be perfect, meaning to keep working to be the person one was created to be – nothing more but nothing less. This goal is attainable. This is not meant to be a self-improvement program, or self-denial, but using one’s talents and gifts to glorify God and raise others to “perfection.” I won’t be scratching my head over this reading anymore.
The pandemic has been an opportunity to find solitude in the self-isolation: luxurious time for an idle mind.