This weekend, for the Solemnity of Pentecost, between the Vigil Mass and the “During the Day” Mass there are eleven (11) selections for readings.
We’re all familiar with the Pentecost story. The Apostles, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, had locked themselves in an upstairs room. They were frightened by all that had happened, anxious and terrified that at any minute the authorities would come crashing through the door. Looking back on the mystery of Pentecost, Paul wrote to his followers exhortations to live by the Spirit. He reminds them “no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’, except by the Holy Spirit.” He tries to unravel the mystery in terms they can relate to. He speaks of gifts of the Spirit, forms of service, different workings, and the fruits of the Spirit. He explains how those who are filled with the Spirit will conduct themselves and what vices they will refrain from.
In this reflection I’ll circle through the readings from the Letters of Paul to the Galatians, the Romans and the Corinthians. I wonder what would Paul say to us today? I suspect he would say much the same things he wrote to his audience of his time. He might personalize it a bit to highlight the gifts present particular body of people he was addressing – gifts that manifest the Spirit for the edification and benefit to the community.
He might say: You do know that to all of you, and each of you is given the gift of faithfulness to prayer, stability to each other and an endeavor for life-long learning. To one may be given the aptitude of expressing psalmody in musical settings; to another the skills to lift the notes off the page in song and to another the gift of prayer in poetry. To one is given the gift of sensitivity to the needs of the poor and to others the gift of touching the heart of the weary. One may have the gift of never knowing a stranger, and another the flair and daring to entertain the community with her ability to emcee a party. To one is given the gift of calligraphy and to another the proficiency and insight to write icons. To one is given the gift of fingers that dance across the keyboard and to another a green thumb that provides food for the table; to a gardener the knack that raises flowers from the dirt and another the gift of arranging bouquets that inspire prayer. To some there is given a volunteer’s heart with a seamstress skill or a caterer’s aptitude. You are witness to a woman’s response to begin a journey in community and you are daily graced to witness each other’s perseverance in a life-long commitment to community and a combined effort to feed the hungers of the people of God.
Paul speaks again: “There is diversity of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”
“But, what if,” you may ask, “I haven’t found my gift yet. Or my gift seems to be changing over the years?” Listen to the voice in your heart: “My child, you always have the gift of prayer … that doesn’t change … the expression of prayer, the words you use, the method you practice are all conversation with God, spoken or unspoken.” Remember the old Chinese proverb: “A Bird Does Not Sing Because It Has an Answer. It Sings Because It Has a Song.” Fr. Ed Lamp recently shared this message inspired by a poster with that saying that he saw in a family’s home in Merida. He wrote:
When it comes to living our lives, we seem to always be looking for a purpose – a reason for everything, and a reason to do anything. We seek fulfillment through love, and our family, through jobs and careers, and through our friends and hobbies. We’re desperate to have a purpose and to understand the meaning of all of it – the meaning of life. Why are we here and why do we do what we do?
But what if you let go of the idea that everything needs a purpose? What if you let go of all the “musts” for a moment, just to be present right here and now? What if you decided to sing, just to sing, but not necessarily because you have an answer?
Because I’m not so sure that we really need an answer, if we can find a way to just enjoy where we are at this moment. Isn’t it enough to just be alive, and to be here, experiencing the full beauty and wonder of life?
“A bird does not sing because it has an answer, but because it has a song.” It sings simply because it wants to, and to share something beautiful with its surroundings. And what other purpose do we humans really have, other than to be alive and enjoy the moment that we are in, making ourselves and the people around us happy; doing what comes naturally to us, and to just live in the present and enjoy the beauty of life.
So try to release the stress of finding a purpose. You are living your purpose right now. …Singing a song with your life for no special purpose … just “because” you have a song – a part in the grand harmony of the miracle of Pentecost – They were filled with Holy Spirit and began to sing in different voices, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim the mighty acts of God.
~Reflection by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB, Prioress