I believe in the Holy Spirit… and other annoyances

kendell_geers_what_do_you_believe_in_01_full“I believe in the Holy Spirit…” The words are right there in the Nicene Creed:

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.

If you are Catholic, you are saying these words at mass on a regular basis. You may read them off of a page, you may mumble along, you may say nothing at all.

So what do you believe?

I’m kind of stuck on that last bit – “who has spoken through the prophets.”  Prophets – they are so annoying, aren’t they?

0506_news_Ollila_Seamann_KHIf you immediately want to say “No! They’re great!” that might be because you, if you are like me, feel that way about your prophets. You know the ones, the ones that you like. By extension, if they are challenging to those “other” people, but comforting to you, I might suggest this…

Listen to those prophets.

639ef11062a9013019e7001dd8b71c47Even when you want to bop them in the head.

Trust me when I tell you that I want to listen to “my” prophets. And I do listen to them, and I am comforted by them, as well. The hard part is, and I am not so good about this, is listening to the “prophets” who completely annoy me.

Those prophets are the one that challenge you at every turn. They say things that you vehemently disagree with, things that you believe turn the meaning of Church on its head. Those prophets are comforting someone else. And to those folks I say, listen to the prophets that annoy you.

You see, the Holy Spirit speaks through the prophets. God afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted. Here’s the rub, if you ask me, we are all comfortable and we are all afflicted.

The very moment that we start to rest on the idea that “we,” whoever we means to you, are God’s special ones, we are in trouble. The idea, especially if we have been paying attention to John’s Gospel in these recent weeks, is that “all might be one.”

Um yeah – that means… all. How annoying is that?!

Read these words from Corinthians, from the possible mass readings for this weekend, and see what you think and feel:

Brothers and sisters:
No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit;
there are different forms of service but the same Lord;
there are different workings but the same God
who produces all of them in everyone.
To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit
is given for some benefit.

As a body is one though it has many parts,
and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body,
so also Christ.
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body,
whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons,
and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.

Now, if there was ever a ragtag group of people struggling to believe, obey and be as one, it was those Corinthians. Yet, here we see St. Paul reminding them that… all may be One.

How different are we? And why should I expect you to be like me? And why would you expect me to be like you?

I don’t know about you, but I know that I am often surprised when someone that I “like” expresses an opinion that is not my own. What-the-what, I think; how could they actually say that? Think that? Believe that?

Can we be as St. Paul indicates, many people with One Spirit?

Quite often those people are my prophets, the ones that I need to listen to. Not necessarily to take what they are saying and make it my own, but rather to open my heart and my mind, to try to understand what God is saying.

943156_363544423745321_1675203907_nI like to think about how the image of the Holy Spirit as dove is so pervasive and so beloved. Did you see the image above, earlier in the week? I thought “oh, how wonderful!” and saved the photo. But what happens when that bird flies off and defacates on your head? What about THAT Holy Spirit? Don’t think that is not the same Holy Spirit… it is. Like with a prophet, annoyance is part of the package.

Prophets are generally reviled in their own time, so if you like someone who feels prophetic to you, I simply ask you to balance it out by finding someone who feels completely annoying, and who stands in contradistinction to “your prophet.”

The Holy Spirit lives in those spaces, challenging, annoying, and persistently getting in the way of the great “I,” as opposed to the very great, “I AM,” which is God. If nothing else, getting up close and personal to the most annoying “prophet” you can find, may help you to know and understand what you do believe. It is not just about changing our mind, it is about how we are transformed by God.

Oh yes, I truly do believe in the Holy Spirit and am annoyed by Her on a persistently regular schedule.

Go find someone who annoys you, near or far. And when you do, experience that flame that wants to flicker upon your head, like that of the Apostles on Pentecost. That flame will shape us all, so that we may be One.

How annoying!


Saying Yes and The Holy Spirit – A Christmas Reflection for December 29, 2010

Christmas Reflection for Wednesday December 29, 2010

As I do each Advent and Christmas (and Lent as well), I am using a small book to read and reflect upon each day. This year it is Daily Reflections for Advent & Christmas – Waiting in Joyful Hope 2010-11 by Robert F. Morneau.

Today is the 5th Day of Christmas and it is also the memorial (optional) for Saint Thomas à Becket. For today’s reflection in the book, Bishop Morneau weaves together the daily readings from today’s mass and Becket. In today’s Gospel we hear about Simeon and how the Holy Spirit was upon him. The Holy Spirit was also upon Becket. Morneau brings forth that both men were “enlightened” by the Holy Spirit.

He the brings in the words of “brilliant Dominican theologian Yves Congar,” who wrote widely on the Holy Spirit and who said that the Holy Spirit “set things in motion.”

Morneau then posed the question “What roles does the Holy Spirit play in your life? What sets you in motion – for good or ill?” Pulling from today’s first reading from the Letter of John, he also asks about any who have been “agents of light and love” in our lives.

This really has me thinking about how the Holy Spirit sets things in motion. In my own life I think of how seemingly small decisions lead to life change. I decided, on a whim no less, to go to daily mass the day before my wedding. I had never been to daily mass at St. Edward’s before. On a similar whim, I decided to actually answer Fr. Pat when he posed a question during the homily at that mass and we began to engage.

As a result of this, I spoke to Father as well as to some parishioners and my life was set in a different direction than it might have if I had not gone to mass or if I had not responded out loud to the question.

That was the Holy Spirit setting my new life into motion. And Fr. Pat, along with some parishioners became agents of light for me. Thanks be to God! Today, pretty much everything in my life is completely different as a result and my life is so enriched by the beautiful communities that I am a part of at St. Edward’s, at Immaculate Conception, where I work and in this diocese of Albany.

And these replies are just the tiniest tip of the iceberg for me!

In any event, this is not unrelated to questions being asked at the Loyola press blog, People for Others yesterday and today… What do you say yes to when you say yes to Jesus, was Paul Brian Campbell’s question for yesterday. And today he poses the opposite, what do you say no to?  Over at More Meredith Gould, Meredith talked about her own journey with yes. If we don’t say yes in some way, how can this journey even begin?

Thus I pose these questions to you all today… How has the Holy Spirit set things in motion in your life? Who are agents of light and love for you? What do you say yes to, when you say yes to Jesus? And what do you say no to?

These things are deep in the heart of this season of birth and light and journey and family. None of this happens without something being born, none of this happens without illumination, none of this happens without journey. And none of this happens without relationship – with God and with one another.