A Frightful Storm

“What a frightful storm this is! The very walls tremble around us. These poor children have faced so much sorrow. How much more can they endure? Young John is so attentive, though I know he is frightened, too. He looks after me and the other women with great kindness. Indeed, I am his mother. Poor Peter. He has so many regrets. Yet he holds these friends together with all of his strength. He loved my son so, and he will never stop trying to understand. In the beginning, even I didn’t understand. I knew nothing of what my life would become the day I heard the voice. I could not imagine what ‘Thy will’ would entail. Fear filled me up when I considered who it was that I carried within me. Then he came, small and helpless. He depended upon me, a child myself, for everything. I thank my God every day for the love of sweet Joseph who took me into his home and into his life. Joseph gave up so much to provide a home for me and my child. I thank you, my God, for the strength that wells up within me whenever I am in need…

The rumbling worsens! What can this be? Son, tame this storm and calm us as you calmed your brothers in the boat. The wind! Can the wind be in this very room? The fire! What fire burns without burning? The walls cannot endure this! Son, is it you? No, not you, but the Spirit who fills the very air that we breathe. The Spirit who is our light and our life engulfs our very hearts in fire. My Lord and my God, do You see them? Their fear escapes them. See the fire in their eyes! No longer afraid, they stand, ready to break out of this room. Now they will tell all of your children the good news…”

In spite of what we would like to believe, the reality of Christ’s presence in the lives of Mary and the disciples was not crystal clear to any of them. Even the Jewish girl who grew into womanhood as she mothered the Son of God was never certain of how Jesus would impact upon her life. Yet, she and multitudes of others after her persisted in their commitments to him. Though some faltered, especially when their paths neared Calvary, they returned to follow in Jesus’ footsteps. On that first Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit rushed into their lives in wind and fire, with strength and conviction, their vision began to clear. Finally, when the disciples understood, they rushed out to spread the news and to give birth to the Church.

Each of our lives is a series of wonderings and wanderings that can be just as troubling as those of Mary and the disciples. Though we intend our direction to be heaven bound, we find ourselves often astray, lost in the trappings of this world. If this world’s temptations fail to completely disrupt our journeys, the heart-wrenching tragedies that unfold around us complete the task. An unexpected diagnosis, marital difficulties, loneliness, frustration over a situation that we simply cannot improve, the loss of our child, our spouse or our dear friend fill our eyes with tears. Our distorted vision keeps us from seeing the consolation to be found in the One who dwells within us. Like masses of commuters who fail to notice the detail of a single face they pass along their way, we fail to notice the Companion who is always at our sides. Fortunately for us, our lives are punctuated with Pentecost experiences that clear our vision a bit more each time they occur.

Our Companion Spirit visits us in the kindness of a neighbor and in the compassion of a friend. The Spirit emerges in the words of our children and the honesty of our spouses, even when we don’t care to hear their messages. The smile of a co-worker and an understanding boss hint at God’s presence. The Spirit breathes gently into our prayer to rejuvenate us and our relationships with God, and the Spirit dwells in the words of scripture. The Spirit rushes about us, making sense of our sorrow and radiating God’s beauty in our joy. The Spirit touches our hearts when they hurt most and are least attentive to God’s presence.

The arrival of the Spirit that first Pentecost empowered Jesus’ followers to burst out of hiding and to preach his good news. This event compels the disciples to challenge the rest of the world to live in God’s love. The same event compels us to share the movement of the Spirit in our lives with one another. So, be watchful and be ready! As Mary and the others discovered, we can never predict how the Spirit will choose to come. We can only be certain that the Spirit will come to us all.

©2011 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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