“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?
If 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.
Even 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.
I 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.