Sixth Sunday of Easter
Acts 8:5-8, 14-17: 1 Peter 3:15-18: John 14:15-21
Saint John Baptist de la Salle/Saint Stephen May 14, 2023
Throughout my lifetime, I have been surprised by many things, many times. Some of the surprises I have had have been pleasant, and others, well, not so good.
In the middle of the 1990’s, I was surprised to discover how interesting and useful computers could be, especially in regard to the internet. In those early days, there was, and still is, an internet program called “eBay.” For those who are not familiar with eBay, it is an 'auction site,’ where items someone wants to sell are posted online and then people bid on them. And many strange and surprising things are auctioned off and sold on eBay. In 2005, the famous Hollywood sign in California was sold on eBay for $450,000 dollars. However, the most surprising sale on eBay, at least for me, was a “Ghost in a Jar.” This unknown, unnamed spirit in a jar, was sold for $50,000 dollars. Over the years, I have bought many things on eBay and have enjoyed it very much. But the “Ghost in a Jar” did surprise me.
The Holy Spirit always surprises us. This is because the Spirit is unlike anything we have yet experienced in life. I remember a time when the Holy Spirit was called the Holy Ghost. The word “Ghost” is used 84 times in the Scriptures, while the word “Spirit” is used 55 times. Ghosts or Spirits were always thought to be the souls of those who had died but somehow remain in this world moving around among us. You cannot see ghosts or spirits, because there is nothing to see, so you never know what they are about. The very word “spirit” suggests surprise. It comes from a Latin word “spiritus” meaning breath. You cannot see breath any more than you can see wind. All you can see is breath or wind moving things. So, when Jesus told us to expect a Holy Spirit, he as much as said to us, “the Holy Spirit will always surprise you,” because that is what spirits do.
“I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows him.” On this side of the grave, no believer can see God the Father or God the Son. Whatever experience we have of God comes to us through the Holy Spirit. As God’s breath, the Holy Spirit is invisible, yet like the wind, he is indirectly visible. We can “see” the Holy Spirit and we can recognize him when he moves around in our life. Because we have been able to discern the Holy Spirit at work in our world and in our life.
Here are a few examples:
We have had one setback after another, but then comes a kind word from a friend, it helps us to understand and brings us comfort.
We are experiencing depression, to whom do we turn, a desperately voiced prayer, a sense of consolation, and then an answer to that prayer.
A quick judgment about the motivations and intentions of another, then a recognition of our error and of our prejudice that prompted it, followed by contrition on our part.
This list could go on and on, but it will never show all the ways the Holy Spirit reveals himself to individual believers. Indeed, our greatest religious experience always comes as a surprise. You think that you’re alone and have to face life all by yourself, but then you see the movement of the Holy Spirit and you know that you are not alone. You cannot prove your experience of the Holy Spirit in your life. –Why not? Because no one sees life like you do, your unique window into the world.
God comes to us in events, in adventures, that are always singular and unrepeatable. No one else can see the breath of God move through your life. Saint Peter says it best; all we can do to share our sighting of the Spirit in our life is to "always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks us for a reason for our hope." And therein lies the great responsibility that follows the movement of the Spirit in our life. If the Holy Spirit can rearrange the elements of our life at will, then we must ask ourselves: "What response do you owe to the very breath, the real presence of God?"