The gift of the spirit by Jesus to his Church and to all who believe wherever and whoever they may be was not meant to become a new law. The spirit was sent to bring about something radically new, not a state possessed, always one to be realised. The spirit is a ground of hope, even in the present state of affairs where both Church and world are concerned.
The task of all those who claim to believe in God is to make God visible, tangible, and available on this earth. It’s no use preaching an infinite and changeless Being who is beyond the range of our inhumanity. The whole point of our religion is tragically missed if in religion we continue to speak of a personal transformation that does not lead to social transformation.
The incarnate God has a face and feelings and emotions. Yet our dualistic thinking about heaven and earth creates division where God has unified. We need a mental and heart revision, like the one the Apostles and first disciples went through, in order to receive truly the spirit that dispels the insecurity that engulfs our faith and gives the right vision that will invigorate the Church in a world that needs this new spiritual energy that religion is failing to generate.
The spirit is given to us to arouse within us the passion for the possible, to enable in us the vision of a transformation of the world we live in begun in the resurrection.
Teilhard de Chardin was a Jesuit paleontologist and theologian whose vision of a consecration of the world shows how the most intense moment of communion with the divine involves also intense moments of communion with the earth.
He speaks marvelously of the Eucharist on the world: “The sacramental species are formed by the totality of the world, and the duration of the creation is the time needed for its consecration”.
The old debate between theology and cosmology was the framework of the tradition we find in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, in writings from the early Church, and in theological and spiritual treatises of many saints, scholars and mystics. Yet in the teachings we all grew up with, we are more prone to look with fear and suspicion on whatever is discovered out there in space and on what science says.
We forget that Christianity is a religion whose centre of gravity is the Word of God becoming flesh and entering into a new communion with human nature and the world. All this makes sense to be revisited on the feast of Pentecost because the gift of the spirit should mark the beginning of a new story. It triggered a new story as it is narrated in the scriptures when the promise of a new earth seemed to be fading out.
That is what the ‘gift of speech’ mentioned in Acts stands for. It is the gift of speech we badly need today to be enabled to enter into a meaningful conversation with creation and with the revelations of science that we need to celebrate rather than fear and condemn.
A Church in isolation tends more to define the mystery of God and creation rather than explore it. That has always been the recipe for stagnation, exactly the opposite of what the spirit we invoke today stands for.
If faith in God serves only to instill in us a sense of guilt and a sense of being exiles as we do not really belong here, then I wonder what faith that is. The spirit is given that we may all become the very temples and home of God. A faith which disconnects us from our own selves and from the world around us is no faith at all.
In his book Passion for the Possible, Daniel O’Leary rightly writes about how “we had been nourished on a dualistic diet of the fallenness of material things and the urgent need for all of us to transfer our exilic presence here as swiftly and as uncontaminatedly as possible to another shore”.
That is faith in a God too small for who He really is. The spirit on Pentecost teaches how adventurous faith can be, and how embracing of all and everything our God is.