Not long ago a friend and I were sharing memories of times when we felt powerless: a broken bone, a sudden hospitalization, a parent’s stroke or a sibling’s heart attack, a colleague’s bouts of drinking or depression, a pattern of behavior we wish we could break, the unforeseen consequences of someone else’s hasty decision. All of us feel helpless in the face of earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, avalanches, of towers collapsing, terrorists attacking, young girls being kidnapped, our Earth-home being ravaged. We often feel impotent to change unjust systems that keep people in poverty, or groups consumed by hatred and violence, or governments mired in apathy and division.
What do you wish you had the power to do? To be?
Today’s feast of Pentecost invites us to spend some time in the place of our deepest longings, to let God into all the places where we feel powerless, just like the terrified disciples in the locked room (John 20). When Jesus broke through their doors and their fears, everything changed for them. The breath of his Spirit grounded them in an abiding sense of peace. They felt power to begin anew, power to go forth, power to share peace and forgiveness.
The first two Scripture readings reveal another facet of the power that God shares with us: the ability to honor diversity while fostering unity. Those gathered in Jerusalem (Acts 2) hear one message spoken through many languages. And Paul reminds the community in Corinth that each of their different gifts is needed as they grow into one body in Christ.
Pentecost celebrates the amazing power that the risen Christ makes available to us in giving us his own Spirit. It is the power of God’s boundless love poured into our hearts, the power of Charity. The kind of power we long for, the power that matches our deepest yearnings, is not the power of super-heroes or dominators; rather, it is the very power of God, who creates, heals, forgives, renews, unites, builds up. Armed with that Spirit-power, we can find our way out of the downward spiral of helplessness, and offer our unique gifts to Christ in his mission to renew the face of the earth.
This power is forever re-chargeable. All we have to do is open ourselves to receive it.
Come, Holy Spirit! Fill and kindle our hearts with your power!
Come, Holy Spirit! Renew the face of the earth!
–Sr. Regina Bechtle
Sr. Regina serves as Charism Resource Director for the Sisters of Charity of New York. A retreat leader, spiritual director, writer and poet, she gives presentations to lay and religious groups about St. Elizabeth Seton and our Vincentian-Charity heritage of spirituality.
Photos by Sr. Margaret Egan, SC