May 19 – Pentecost Sunday

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My daughter Ava was born on the other side of the world. We were not with her when she was born, and we don’t know much about her first week of life. Ava was abandoned on a park bench at one week old, and we were not able to hold her until she was nine months old. Ava spent those long nine months in a crowded orphanage in Yunyang, China. There were many babies, mostly girls, yet fewer nannies. I have lost sleep wondering how many times she might have cried for no one to come for her. How many times she wanted someone to see her new smiles, for there to be no one around to be captivated by that radiant grin. When we finally held our little girl, she was very untrusting of her new world. We must have been strange-looking to her, and speaking a strange new language – we were foreign. My little girl was heartbreakingly conflicted in those first weeks with us. Her crying seemed unceasing, her grieving and fearfulness at times unbearable, and our hearts ripped wide open with hers. She wanted us to hold her…but would push us away if we held her too close. Her heart was torn. Our first night home from China in a haze of sleeplessness and despair, my husband, Ava and I sat on the floor of her new room, held each other and wept. It was a moment of brokenness – a longing for peace as our hearts unraveled with Ava’s – and the beginning of our unity as a family.

Each reading from this week spins around this glorious event that is Pentecost. In each reading, it draws on the fact that by being “led by the Spirit of God,” (Romans 8:14) we become family, and within that family there is life, there is freedom and there is peace. I think sometimes we can lose ourselves in the great and mystical experience of Pentecost. We concentrate on the incredible supernatural representation of wind and fire and lose the smallest details of this day. Isn’t that how it is in daily life? We want to see miraculous answers to prayer and the beautiful beatific visions, and we miss the miracles the Spirit manifests around us in our own family of God. How often I wished, in those first days, for some “strong driving wind” (Acts 2:2) to flow into Ava’s fear, grief and suffering and bring her the peace and understanding that we were present, we would never leave and she would no longer be alone.

But the Spirit doesn’t always come in the ways we want Him to. The world we live in is in a great love affair with knowing all, experiencing all, and feeling all. When we are hungry, there are thirty drive-thru restaurants within a five-mile radius. When we have a headache or suffer the effects of allergies, we take medicine. When we are bored and want to watch a movie, our TV’s, iPads, and iPhones soothe our boredom within seconds. We live in a world where our loneliness brings us to false consolations that hold us captive. Most of us “live according to our flesh” (Romans 8:5) and only pay attention to what that flesh experiences or how that flesh feels. But God cannot be put in a box of human feelings. Most of the time He is not seen or heard or felt in the ways that we can understand or perceive that we need to see, hear and feel; and as a result, we sometimes fear we are alone – not able to be bold in our faith without some serious back up. “Come on Holy Spirit!! Is parting some tongues of fire or giving me the words I need to speak a language of boldness really that hard?!?” My brothers and sisters, because of our worldly longings, and because of our loneliness and only when we have need of God, we want the strong, driving wind!! We want tongues of fire!! We want to be consoled immediately – a spiritual pat on the head from a proud Father. Yet how quickly we forget the beautiful and sometimes silent work of the Holy Spirit. His work – after enduring much suffering for our sake – is completed in the whisper and the breath and the silence. (John 20:2) And, we are not meant to do this alone. As we received the “Spirit of Adoption” (Romans 8:15), we became family. We were already together in that Upper Room, but that breath and that moment unified our efforts to bring about the Gospel in word and deed. And, we weren’t “left” in that Upper Room with the Holy Spirit…We were given the Holy Spirit so that together we would be sent – able to hear, see and feel God at work in our lives and the lives of our adopted family in God. And we would have peace…

“Peace be with you”, I said to Ava at Mass many times when she was a baby and kissed a small blessing on her forehead. We were unsure of how long she would grieve and live in distrust or how best we could pray for her. But she had an Advocate who knew, who hovered near and covered her crib in China, staying close to her when we could not. The Spirit knew what she needed, how best to bring about His peace to her, even when we were at loss for human words. The work of the Holy Spirit in Ava’s adopted family – our family – was not in a mighty wind and it was not in the fire. It was a palpably silent work – an undertone so low that no one could behold her Advocate’s whispered & beautiful healing, taking the frayed strands of Ava’s restless and torn heart and knitted them back together – weaving our hearts within its tapestry until peace and joy radiated from not just our smiles, but hers. And that, my friends, is a miracle to behold…

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