This homily is for the Feast of the Pentecost (as well as the Visitation of our Lady). Please pray for me and my brother Jesuits. Many of us are celebrating our Vow Day today.
Based on the Gospel account, the very first Pentecost was quite a dramatic and extraordinary event. It was a huge production number. It had all the works: Fire, thunder, and a powerful gust of wind!
What I would do to have such a Pentecost!
Looking back over the past days, however, I realize now that I’ve been experiencing Pentecost in a slightly different way: There’s fire, there’s thunder, and yes, even wind, but they’re not exactly what they appear to be.
The last few weeks I’ve been thrust into the kind of work that nobody dreams of–especially when you’re Working From Home. It’s the kind of unexpected assignment with lots of responsibility, lots of consequences, and lots of people involved.
But you do what you do, right? Best efforts, you tell yourself.
But as in all complex, messy real-world challenges–especially those that involve people–the work turned out to be tougher than I had imagined. It’s probably because all of us are going through difficult times… I’m sure I wasn’t alone in feeling this way, and that there are other–perhaps, more accurate–perspectives, but here’s what happened from mine: Often I found myself caught up in what appeared to be the most tedious and skewed of processes, with lots of unnecessary and time-consuming detours, not to mention those needless, frustrating dead ends that I, having not much choice, just had to be determined and creative so we could find a way around them.
The result? Lots of mixed and powerful feelings: Fire in your gut, thunder in your mind, and a raging storm in your heart.
Why, you might say, it sounds just like Pentecost!
Except it’s not.
We’ve been there before, right? How tempting to walk into the fire, to amplify the thunder, and to lose yourself in the fury of winds!
We know it’s going to feel good–even if only for a while! Why not just let your self-righteous indignation rise and consume you? It would be exhilarating, even energizing–even if, yes, only for a while.
You don’t need to discern too long to know it’s not the right thing to do. The tongues of fire in your gut, that thunderous sound in your head, that raging storm in your heart–how can they be from the Holy Spirit?
You recall what St. Ignatius has taught you in his Rules for Discernment: What matters isn’t the quality of your experience–how good it feels, how dramatic it is–but the direction it’s pulling you to: Will you grow closer to God, more charitable to others? Will you become less selfish, more humble?
In short, “by their fruits…”
And so, thanks to this Ignatian wisdom and thanks to the graces you’ve been praying for, you find yourself–miraculously!–able to walk away and to do the one thing called for in such occasions: You accept. You swallow your words instead of spitting them out. Even harder, you swallow your ego, consoling yourself that this bitter pill of humility is good for your soul.
And before you know it–just as miraculously–the fire dwindles to a mere flicker, the thunder quiets down, and the storm passes.
It is at this point that you remember the song of the pregnant Virgin, and you agree: “Yes, the Lord does regard our lowliness.”
Your heart breaks into silent song, magnifying the Lord as you gratefully, gracefully embrace your own private Pentecost.