John 15:26-27; 16:12-15, Pentecost Sunday
He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit…”
Action-at-a-distance is a mysterious thing. In science, we explain how objects act on each other at a distance by postulating a medium that contains and connects them, a field which undulates and carries the action of one on the other remotely. This mysterious action-at-a-distance is possible because of waves and fields. Thus sunlight reaches us through empty space because of waves moving in an electromagnetic ocean. A pebble thrown into a pond makes ripples in the water that spread outward. Sound from our voice, signals from our cellphone, these are all waves in fields that fan outward beyond us. The light of a candle creates ripples in a field that is present even in the darkness.
The atmosphere is a field. And sound is just one of its many waves. Electromagnetism is a field and light is just one of its many waves. Spacetime is a field and gravity is its wave.
Analogously then, we might say, the Holy Spirit is a field that connects us all to God, to each other, and to creation. If the Holy Spirit were a field, love would be its wave.
Today, Pentecost day, starts with a tsunami of a sound wave, “like a strong driving wind” filling the entire house where the disciples were hiding in fear. After that first wave of sound, comes a second wave, a wave of light, appearing to them as tongues of fire, alighting on each of them. Soon after comes a third wave, a wave of love now become bold. The disciples go out of hiding and start proclaiming the dangerous truth of Jesus Christ risen.
Pentecost celebrates these three waves of sound and light and love. Today, with the Spirit’s inspiration, we will ponder the sound made by Pentecost, the sound created by our words. Second, we will let the light of Pentecost, the light that radiates from our soul, we will let this light be our beacon in this time of tempest. Third and last, we shall let the love of Pentecost inspire us to action, move the inert; we will let love awaken love. In this field that is the Holy Spirit, we will let our word and soul and action radiate like waves.
First, words. We used to read words only on paper, or hear them face-to-face or on radio or TV. Now we read and hear them on plastic screens everywhere. Words that are lies are legion. Their meanings (whether they are jokes or not) can be changed on the fly. Words have become cheap. Words have become weapons. There is palabra de honor and there is palabra mura o barato.
Today Pentecost, let us learn again to speak in tongues. By this I mean speaking to each other from the heart, in language that understands and is understood, in words that create rather than destroy, words that unite rather than divide, words that are truthful rather than deceitful. The sound of Pentecost is that of a strong driving wind. It is a wave that drives us to speak truth to chastise the liar, truth to uplift the downtrodden, truth to liberate those held captive by corrupt power.
The second wave is light, light that comes from God and radiates from our soul. About this, the poet Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes:
One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.
Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.
This Pentecost then, let our soul stand on deck in these inclement times. For all the harm this crisis has inflicted on us, we know at least that by thrusting us to the elements, this pandemic has bared our soul to ourselves. True character comes clear in times of unclarity; the light of a person’s soul radiates in times of tribulation. After all, it is the Holy Spirit that breathes on the embers of our soul. Let us then stand our soul on deck, so that others who are struggling may catch light from our light.
Third and last, let our actions radiate the love of the Holy Spirit. Love can be patient and kind and many other things besides. On Pentecost day, love is brave. Love defies inertia. Love makes the first move by going through doors that have been locked long in fear and anxiety. Love breaks the silence and speaks the first word. In offering mercy and peace, Jesus Christ breathes on us and bequeaths to us the Holy Spirit.
On Pentecost day, it is this love of the Holy Spirit that brings people out of hiding and rouses them to action. It is this same love that gives our words their driving sound, our souls their unquenchable light, our actions their power to quell languor and awaken love.
If the Holy Spirit were a field, love would be its wave. And Pentecost would just be like that pebble in the pond. From that moment on, there has only been wave upon wave, love upon love reaching out to us and kindling in us the fire of God’s love.