Holy Spirit: Source of Unity and Hope
Robert F. Morneau
highest knowledge is to know that we are surrounded by mystery." This
conviction of Dr. Albert Schweitzer, the doctor and humanitarian winner
of the Nobel Peace Prize, provides an excellent starting point as
we reflect on the presence of God in our lives and prepare for the
Great Jubilee Year.
are we surrounded by mystery, but the very Mystery of God dwells within
us. The Scriptures and our tradition hold firmly and consistently
that our experience of God is threefold: God creates us, God redeems
us in the person of Jesus, God continues to lead and guide us in the
person of the Holy Spirit. One God, three personsmystery upon
The priest and poet
George Herbert (1593-1633) wrestled long and prayerfully with the
mystery of the triune God, seeking through the inadequacy of words
to relay his experience of the Trinity. His "Trinity Sunday" is both
powerful theology and awe-filled prayer. I offer the assurance that
if these nine lines are memorized and prayed from the heart on a daily
basis, growth in discipleship will happen:
Lord, who hast
form'd me out of mud,
And hast redeem'd me through thy blood,
And sanctifi'd me to do good;
Purge all my sins done heretofore:
For I confess my heavy score,
And I will strive to sin no more.
Enrich my heart, mouth, hands in me,
With faith, with hope, with charity;
That I may run, rise, rest with thee.
The Spirit of God
is the source of unity in the Church and the world. Faced with the
reality of massive disorder and chaos we realize that for all the
progress of education and science, something more is needed to bring
about peaceful communities and the healing of our woundedness. Our
hope does not lie in chariots or horses but in the living Spirit of
God who sanctifies us and makes us whole.
Spirit at work
The Spirit of God
sanctifies us in a variety of ways. Let's look at five activities
of the Holy Spirit that bring about the perfection of love, those
activities of the Spirit that fulfill our vocation to holiness: indwelling,
brooding, stirring, reconciling, commissioning.
St. Paul is explicit and strong in his conviction that we are temples
of the Holy Spirit. The divine Guest has taken up lodging in our soul.
Hospitality and courtesy are fundamental dispositions necessary to
experience this awesome presence. Failure to take time to nurture
this relationship (prayer) results in a superficial life and a loss
Our challenge is
to open our minds and hearts to God. In the Book of Revelation (3:20)
we are told that the Lord stands at the door of our souls knocking,
seeking entrance. Anyone who hears and anyone who opens the door will
be visited by the mystery of God. The Lord promises to come and share
our mealour lifewith us. The latch is on the inside, which
means we have the freedom to welcome or reject the divine Guest.
Gerard Manley Hopkins concludes his magnificent sonnet "God's Grandeur"
with these lines: " . . . the Holy Ghost over the bent / World broods
with warm breast and with ah! bright wings." Our world and our hearts
are bent and often broken. Yet God continues to hover over us with
warmth and light. Faith assures us that we are not alone, but constantly
under God's providential and protective gaze.
Nor is this brooding
a slothful sitting around. God has work to do in and through us. Our
call is to make present and manifest the love and mercy of God. To
the extent that we position ourselves under the wings of the Spirit
and the fire of God's energy will we be able to further the kingdom
of God. We are agents and ambassadors of Jesus in our times. The Spirit's
warmth and light make us capable of transforming our culture and
Different authors use different words (quickening, nudging, prodding,
impelling, inciting) to describe how the Spirit is constantly working
in the depth of our lives, in regions far beyond our consciousness
and outer activity. Too easily we settle down in comfort zones or
slide into periods of stagnation, becoming unaware and insensitive
to this volcanic life deep within. Then suddenly the waters stir,
the fire ignites, the wind arises and a second, third or fourth springtime
The suddenness of
grace can happen anywhere, at any time. God nudges us to take the
initiative in welcoming the stranger, pushes us into a leadership
role that we have been avoiding for years, stirs us to compassion
to reach out to the homeless, quickens us to new hope after a severe
loss, incites us to a righteous anger in the face of injustice, impels
us to be glad instruments of the Good News. The Spirit is always working,
and our task is to recognize these inner movements and to respond
Jesus' farewell gift to the disciples was "peace," a peace that the
world cannot give. The disciples in the upper room, locked away in
their fears and guilt, were overwhelmed to see the risen Lord and
to be given a share of his Spirit. The sense of being separated from
Jesus' friendship was ended. A joy overflowing from unity swept through
their being. Once again they experienced communion with God.
As we approach the
new millennium, the call to reconciliation echoes across our broken
planet. Be it in the country of Rwanda or the inner city of Los Angeles,
be it in the divisions between theologians and church leaders or the
ruptures in our families, we stand in desperate need of the Spirit
to unify us and make us whole. Without divine grace and the commitment
of leaders and all our people, we will not come to know the peace
that is beyond all understanding.
ending, and more
The traditional ending of the Mass is "Go, the Mass is ended."
I was in a parish recently and, after the last blessing, the presider
said: "And we say?" Then the entire congregation, with gusto and fiery
enthusiasm, cried out: "The Mass is not ended. We are sent forth now
to share the Good News with all we meet!" Though I'm sure that some
liturgists and bishops would have some deep concerns here, the point
is well made. The Mass really doesn't end. The Spirit sends us forth
to make Jesus present and manifest at the shelter, in the workplace,
at the kitchen table, in the marketplace. Our worship points to evangelization,
and that work is done in and through the Holy Spirit.
Years ago I read
a novel in which one of the characters said: "I must go where the
suffering is!" Rephrasing this, "We must go where the brokenness is
to bring God's unity and peace!" Both the "going" and the "unifying"
are the work of God's Spirit. That same Spirit empowers us to overcome
the fear and apathy that would make us stay at home or allow our liturgy
to remain in-house. We are being commissioned daily to be servants
of peace and unity, agents of God's love and joy, instruments of mercy
When Mother Teresa
of Calcutta died on September 5, 1997, a Hindu professor from a university
in the United States asked a bishop if he could speak at the Mass
of thanksgiving. After holy Communion the native from India stated
with great emotion that Gandhi was an instrument of justice for his
people and the Roman Catholic Mother Teresa was an instrument of charity
and love. The Holy Spirit blows where he will, bringing justice through
the political leadership of a Hindu, freedom through the counseling
of an agnostic, truth through a pastoral letter of a bishop, charity
through the commitment of an order of sisters.
The Spirit is the
source of unity in the Church and in the world. Wherever truth, charity,
freedom and justice are protected and promoted, the Spirit is present.
By contrast, where lies and hatred, enslavement and injustice reign,
the seeds of divisions are at work.
My second story:
Some years ago a family gathered for its annual summer picnic. In
the midst of the celebration a storm arose out of the west sending
all the picnickers for shelter. Within a half hour the storm abated,
and suddenly a magnificent rainbow filled the sky. An aunt was holding
her two-year-old niece and said to little Niki, "Look, look!" The
small child looked once, then twice. She whis- pered in her aunt's
ear: "Take me to it." (And note: There were still hot dogs and ice-cream
cones to be eaten, and games to be played.)
After hearing this
story I scratched down a few lines:
her niece against the evening storm.
The thunder and lightning made them both tremble.
Then, with the suddenness of all grace,
a rainbow arched the evening sky,
elusive-dappled-beauty filled their eyes.
The two-year-old child gazed once, then twice.
Into her aunt's astounded ear she whispered:
"Take me to it!"
The Spirit attracts,
unifies and transforms. Whenever we witness Beauty, Truth or Goodness,
the Spirit is around and active. If we are not too distracted by all
our toys and trivia, we might also whisper, "Take me to it."
My final story:
On October 19, 1997, Pope John Paul II named St. Therese of Lisieux
a doctor of the Church. She joins the ranks of two other women doctors,
St. Catherine of Siena and St. Teresa of Avila. The Holy Spirit prompted
the Little Flower to make statements like: "Whenever I am charitable
it is Jesus alone who is working in me. The more I am united to him,
the more I love my Sisters."
Again we see the
Spirit as the source of unity in every dimension of our lives. To
the extent that we are attached to the vine, our branches will bear
fruit, fruit that will last. Apart from Jesus and his Spirit we are
In the very first
paragraph of the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium (the Dogmatic
Constitution on the Church), the Council Fathers remind us that
the Church is to be a sign and instrument of unity with God and unity
among ourselves. It is through the Church that the Spirit is at work
in an intense and powerful fashion. Through the Church's sacramental
life, especially the Eucharist and Confirmation, through her pastoral
work and through her leaders, the Church is a channel of God's uncreated
and created graces.
We are the Church,
this community of people who acknowledge God as creator, Jesus as
redeemer and brother and the Spirit who leads us into light, love
and life. We must daily beg God to send down the fire of the Spirit
upon us so that we can ignite the world with divine love. It is that
same Spirit that gives us the power to reconcile and heal the many
wounds that injure God's people. The Spirit is our source of unity,
our hope of salvation, the fountain of our joy.
F. Morneau is auxiliary bishop and vicar general of the Diocese of
Green Bay, Wisconsin. He is the author of 11 books, including
to Prayer and A
Retreat With Jessica Powers: Loving a Passionate God, both
from St. Anthony Messenger Press.
When Virgilio Elizondo speaks of his desire for
a Church that is inclusive, he speaks as one who has felt the
sting of exclusion. When he expresses a desire for a Church
that welcomes "people of any and every background," that desire
flows from painful memories: As a young Mexican-American boy
in Texas, being different from the majority left him on the
outside looking in.
But it is not unresolved hurt that propels his
wish today for a Church that welcomes all persons as part of
the family of faith. It is a desire to return to the Church
that Jesus established, says the priest-theologian and founder
of the Mexican-American Cultural Center in San Antonio.
The early Church was "radically inclusive, " Father
Virgilio Elizondo told Millennium Monthly. "People of
any and every background felt welcomed, they felt a sense of
brotherhood and sisterhood." And inclusion, he continued, "is
at the very heart of being a Christian. This is what constitutes
the Good News." The Jesus who surrounded himself with outcasts,
public sinners and women, says Father Elizondo, a priest of
the Diocese of San Antonio, radically reversed the thinking
of his day.
It is the Holy Spirit, says Father Elizondo, who
helps us "to go beyond" ourselves. "While the world would rejoice
in diversity based on differences, the Spirit rejoices in our
unity. What the world would keep apart we dare to unite. Where
others may see degrading differences, we see unsurpassed beauty.
The Spirit opens our eyes to see, our ears to hear, [thereby]
enriching the whole community."
The idea of Church as an inclusive, extended family
was played out in dramatic form at the Synod of America in late
1997, when bishops from North, South and Central America, as
well as the Caribbean, gathered as a single unit to prepare
for the new millennium. "It was Pope John Paul II's desire that
we speak of America as one," Father Elizondo recalls. "Political
boundaries should not be ecclesial boundaries."
A man who has worked to bring down barriers through
his writing, speaking and community organizing efforts on behalf
of the downtrodden, Father Elizondo sees this as a particularly
potent moment. The new millennium, he believes, calls for the
creation of a new Church "that would have no foreigners. Everyone
would be familia" (family).
by Judy Ball
seeking to visit the Holy Land in conjunction with the year
2000 now have an official invitation to head for Bethsaida,
the first new pilgrimage and tourist site open to the public
in connection with the Great Jubilee. Almost 2,000 years after
the village in Galilee was destroyed by an earthquake and flood,
Bethsaida has been designated as a historical archaeological
tradition holds that Bethsaida, located near the Sea of Galilee,
was the site where Jesus performed many miracles, including
restoring the sight of the blind man, feeding the multitudes
and walking on water. It is also thought to have been home to
the apostles Peter, Andrew and Philip.
location remained a mystery for almost two millennia following
its destruction in the year 115. Unlike other New Testament
cities such as Nazareth and Capernaum, it was never rebuilt.
Following the 1967 war in Israel, archaeologists began looking
for the site, but excavations did not start until 20 years later.
The partially restored site now includes two open-air chapel,
one donated by Vatican and overlooking the Sea of Galilee. Also
included are remnants of two houses and two temples.*