By Dr. Jill Raitt
An old adage says that everything is received according to the mode (nature) of the receiver. For example when rain falls on a rock, it runs off without affecting the rock other than to make it wet; the hard nature of the stone makes it impermeable. But when rain falls on a newly planted field, it softens and penetrates the soil and stimulates the seeds to begin to grow; the nature of soil is absorbent and the nature of a seed is to respond to moisture. So what has this to do with Pentecost?
The nature of the Holy Spirit is Love and the nature of love is to do all the good possible for the beloved. The only catch is that the beloved must be open to the love just as cultivated land is open to receive the sower’s seeds, the sun and rain.
Ah, but we are not passive soil; we have minds and wills, you rightly object. Yes, and that is why we prepare to receive the gifts of Pentecost and then to cooperate with those graces, to say “Yes” to the Divine Giver. So the actions at Pentecost are first to pray to be open to receive the gifts that the Holy Spirit pours out on us, thanking God and asking the Holy Spirit to make them active in us for our sanctification and apostolic work.
Better still, because we are members of the one Body of Christ, the Church, we can help each other to receive the seven-fold gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. These gifts indicate the ways in which God acts in us and through us to build up and strengthen the Body of Christ on earth. So we do as Christ did, we use our whole human nature, mind, will, body, and soul as conscious, willing members of our local church community, enriched by the gifts of the Holy Spirit that inspire us to offer, so far as we are able, our talents and our treasure to our parish, to our local community, and other charitable groups, but most effectively, by attending Mass.
For a time, this church was closed; now it is open but under mandated restrictions put in place for our safety. We must sign up to attend only one Sunday Mass each month and indicate the days on which we wish to attend daily Mass. Because we are created as social beings, the social distancing restrictions that we all must observe have made me painfully aware of how much I miss gathering with others for Sunday Mass. Today is Pentecost, but I “spent” my August Sunday on the Feast of the Ascension, so I will be attending Mass via my computer, restricted to virtual communion.
Virtual attendance via computer sites are better than nothing — we can receive Christ spiritually through our desire and prayer. I do all that, you say; how else can I receive and respond to the Holy Spirit? Did I mention personal, private prayer? Liturgical prayer with our parish community is powerful, even when we are distracted, because our intention in showing up at Mass is to honor God, to receive our Eucharistic Lord, and by so doing, to grow spiritually. Is that enough? You know it isn’t! Every day the Holy Spirit showers us with gifts; every day we need to spend some time alone with God. And we need to pray to be open to the Holy Spirit’s gifts, to accept them, and to act on them. Come Holy Spirit!