Have you ever had an “aha” moment? One of those flashes of surprise or awe when something unexpected happens? I am always astonished when one of those moments happen either to me or to someone else. One might say, “Oh, it’s a coincidence,” but is it really? If you take a closer look at today’s second reading at Mass, you’ll find the explanation to those coincidences. Of course, it’s the Holy Spirit. The Spirit, which dwells in all of us, knows exactly what we need, when we need it, expressing those needs to the Father in “inexpressible groanings.” And the one who searches hearts (the Father) knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because he intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will. (Romans 8:27) That’s when the aha moments happen, particularly when we need them most, to boost our faith, or push us in the other direction when we are in doubt or fear. So, the next time you feel the holy coincidence, know that the Spirit is at work in your life.
If you’re like me, you learned as a child that the Holy Spirit is a dove. This is the traditional symbol for the presence of the Holy Spirit in Scripture and religious art. I held this image for much of my life. The image of a dove isn’t one that I could relate to unlike the images of God the Father and Jesus which are human in nature. As a person who is not a big fan of birds, the Holy Spirit was a distant entity of the Trinity for me. That was until about 2007 when I read the book, "The Shack," by William P. Young. While this is not a theologically accurate book, it is an interesting piece of fiction that made me grapple with the very content that I was teaching my fourth grade students at the time, and my own understanding and appreciation of the Holy Spirit. The concept of the Holy Spirit was prevalent in the religion curriculum as it related to the sacraments of initiation. I needed to spend time with students engaging in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This was the perfect storm for a conversion moment – a compelling novel, new understanding of the Holy Spirit, and moral responsibility to teach the Truth. Working through all that was before me, I developed a deeper, more profound connection and relationship with the Holy Spirit. It is less about the dove and more about the fire. The fire that descended upon the disciples at Pentecost and burned in their bellies to give them the zeal and fortitude to carry out Jesus’s mission for all time. Every morning, I now ask the Holy Spirit to be with me and guide me, to grant me the gifts of wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and courage to do what the Lord needs me to do. I can do all things through God, the Holy Spirit, who strengthens me. I have come to appreciate that the Holy Spirit is the power. The Holy Spirit is the force. The Holy Spirit is the energy brought out through love of God and love of Jesus.
We come across a very passionate and emboldened Jesus in Luke 12: 49-53. We are also given one of Jesus’ harder teachings to understand. What does Jesus mean that he didn’t come to bring peace? He is Jesus, isn’t that just what he does?
The point Jesus is trying to get across is this passage of Luke is that preaching the gospel will, at times, cause very difficult divisions. It is often said the two subjects never to talk about with family and friends are religion and politics. Why? Because these are such personal aspects of people’s lives. I’m sure we’ve come across many family tensions that are rooted in differences of faith or theological interpretations.
I wish that the world was set ablaze with the fire of the Holy Spirit. I wish that every believer’s heart, including my own, could be so on fire with God’s love that our world would be transformed. Since we are people of faith we must also be aware that though the fire of the Spirit does burn bright, we have our work to do to share the gospel message.
Yes, we might experience conflict in living out our faith, but let’s pray with Jesus that the world be evermore set ablaze with the fire of the Holy Spirit!