It's Pentecost Sunday morning and I feel like I'm a defeated, deflated cartoon character being dragged along by life, despite the fact that I have had a fantastic week in Disneyland Paris. An uncertain sadness has held me in its grip for many weeks now. It refuses to release me and I seem to be powerless to shake it off and, with the best of intentions, no one can take it from me. It holds me in resolute solitude and my heart utters the sentiments of Psalm 13, "How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart day and night?"
Perhaps it is not my own personal sorrow and maybe it's vicarious. It roughly dates back to the death of two year old Heidi, to the fact that she is the second child to be taken from her parents in the space of two months - they now have one child left.
I feel something of their desolation, their fear - and I have no answer for the questions that people are asking about God in all of this. The priest in confession a couple of weeks ago said I should thank God that I don't have the answers because, in truth, the only thing I can offer is presence - my own presence and the presence of God within me. Maybe I can be a reminder to them that God is still with them despite all the evidence to the contrary.
I feel like I don't know God anymore. Not that I don't believe in Him - I believe very strongly - but it is faith in darkness, the faith of one who has become "a worm and no man" - from Psalm 22, some of which Jesus prayed on the cross.
In this state I am fully ripe for Pentecost! It is to such situations that Jesus comes. He enters again through the locked doors of my heart, through my resistence, my confusion and my fear.
I have to make deliberate efforts to dispose myself to the approach of Jesus and the breath of the Spirit that He brings. I have to counter the darkness with light - positive thought and positive action.
So I have come out into the back garden where the sun shines brightly, a gentle breeze blows around me and a lone robin sings to the silence.
Here I am reminded! The promise of Jesus is that the Holy Spirit "will remind you of all that I have said to you" (John 14:26)
What the Holy Spirit reminds us of on this day of Pentecost is that we are children of God, praying the prayer of the children of the Kingdom in our hearts, crying out "Abba Father!" (Romans 8) And for Pentecost to happen again, to receive new life in the Spirit I must turn to the child within me, the child that I am! All of us need to become little children in order to receive what God is offering. "If only you knew what God is offering you and who it is that is speaking to you!" (John 4:10)
Childhood came to me in Disneyland and suspended my sorrow - especially observing and sharing the experiences of my two young nieces - Katie and Laura, through whom God has been teaching me for the past eight years!
They were queueing to meet and get the autographs of two Disney characters but just when the girls got to the head of the queue the two characters went off for their lunch. We were so disappointed until we saw the head of Peter Pan peeping over the rocks. Then out he came with captain Hook and Katie and Laura were the first to meet them. Captain Hook took a shine to Laura who later said that she likes the baddies while Katie likes the nice ones!!! This was borne out a while later when Jafar beckoned to Laura with his index finger!
Peter Pan was wonderful with both girls and gave them plenty of time. He sensed a certain shyness in Katie and so he took her by the hand while they posed for photos. I think Katie was smitten!
In the evening we watched the parade, wonderful in its colour, beauty and happiness. As Peter Pan's float was passing he looked down to where we were standing, pointed his finger at the girls and said "I remember you!" and he blew them a kiss! I was overcome with emotional joy!
So now Peter Pan has become a reminder! A reminder of what God is doing and saying in our time. It is God who points to us saying "I remember you! I see you and take notice of you!" It is God in Jesus who blows to us the kiss of the Holy Spirit, breathing the breath of new life into us, taking the hand of our timidity into His own hand. "I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you." (Isaiah 41:13)
On the first Pentecost the Holy Spirit gave each person the power to speak (Acts 2), the power to express themselves; transforming their timidity into courage; giving them a new and powerful way of expressing themselves, expressing the Good News of Jesus.
It is the same Holy Spirit today who gives expression to the reality that we are right now. Every flame that is brought to the altar is an expression of the community that we belong to - an expresson of who we are as gifted individuals and as part of our particular group or community.
The Holy Spirit also seeks to lead us to new and more powerful ways of expressing who we are and who God is among us; how we can best serve each other as we move forward. It means we need to have the willingness to let go of our resistence and allow the Spirit to do what is necessary in us. In the words of the Sequence, "Heal our wounds, our strength renew, On our dryness pour thy dew, Wash the stains of guilt away: Bend the stubborn heart and will Melt the frozen, warm the chill Guide the steps that go astray."
"Spirit of the living God fall afresh on us!"
Beautiful words, Fr Eamonn. Long may your little nieces channel Jesus to you. I often think about the family of poor little Heidi too. Imagine losing three children, two in recent months. Imagine being the child left behind. It must be unbearable. It was unbearable for me to lose my dad at 78 years of age, so I can only try to imagine what it felt like for that poor family. Thank you for being there for all of us in Shankill who have been bereaved recently. We are so lucky to have you. Mam was just saying to me this morning that you deserve a break from all the stress, because you are taking on everyone else's grief. You carry the Cross for everyone. I am so happy to know that you have such lovely little children in your life and that they have such a wonderful uncle. Come and visit us when you are back in Shankill, when you find the time. You are always welcome in our house.ReplyDelete
Amazing story with profound insights. You have been given great observational and emotional gifts. I fully concur that perhaps the way to serenity, enlightenment and God is through the eyes of innocence.ReplyDelete
A great message from a great person.