“Bless the Lord, O my soul . . . The earth is full of your creatures. When you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the earth.”
In recent months, I felt like I was detached from Jesus. My prayers were focused on him, and his images continued to be in my head. But he wasn’t in my heart. Jesus seemed distant, and I was troubled.
Then, just before Easter, I watched a movie called Killing Jesus. This film focused on the “human” side of Jesus. He’s part of a family. He works as a carpenter until his baptismal encounter with John the Baptist. He’s the Son of God, but he’s also a human being. Now, once again, I empty my heart to Jesus. He still challenges me, but he is close again; he listens with compassion and love.
Before his crucifixion, when Jesus washes the disciples’ feet, he speaks of the Holy Spirit: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth . . . he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” It’s affirming to realize Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit before he dies.
The Workbook for Lectors and Gospel Readers 2006 says: “. . . it is important that the Spirit was working in the life of Jesus before the resurrection. Indeed, the Holy Spirit was present with the Father from the beginning of time . . . and in our own experience, the Spirit is present not only in the joys of life, but in the sorrows and difficulties as well, when it feels like God is far from us . . . ”
When Jesus dies on the cross, the disciples are terrified. But the Holy Spirit inspires these disciples to be close to Jesus again, and to be motivated to reach out to people all over the world. Indeed, the Holy Spirit has been present in this world from the beginning of time.
We all have struggles with neighbours, relatives or others. Consequently, we may shut them out of our lives, locking both our doors and our hearts. John’s Gospel says, “It was evening on the day Jesus rose from the dead, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked . . . ” Jesus helped the disciples and he helps us open our hearts again, to discern God’s presence even in difficult people.
“Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ . . . He showed them his hands and his side . . . Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ ”
Jesus sends us out into the world to gather people — even troublesome ones — to God: family, neighbours, anyone who needs affirmation and hope. Jesus breathes on us and says: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” We might ponder this statement and begin to forgive those who’ve hurt us. As we know, forgiveness is an ongoing journey.
Pentecost resonates with hope. We welcome this Holy Spirit who enters our lives. “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 . . . Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared . . . and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages . . .”
St. Paul says: “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone . . . we were all made to drink of one Spirit.’” We drink of this Spirit, and then we reach out to others with generosity and love. To quote St. Paul again: “. . . the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control . . . If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.”
Indeed, this life is a contemplative journey. And yet, it’s also a journey that is grounded and real. Watching Killing Jesus rekindled connection to this Saviour who is approachable, warm-hearted, and passionate. He was a human being who lived long ago, and he’s also the Son of God in the present moment.
These are foundational, life-giving concepts: God, Jesus Christ, and Holy Spirit. In our faith journey, we might call on the Holy Spirit to help us reach out to others in the humble yet radical way that Jesus did.
Strachan is married with three grown children and lives in Nakusp, B.C. She is a Benedictine Oblate with St. Peter’s Abbey in Muenster, Sask., and a member of the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild.