May 13, 2016
Dear fellow pilgrims,
I greet you from a hotel in Pittsburgh. Strange, I know, but I'm here because my little brother, Erik, is graduating from Carnegie Mellon tomorrow and I want to see him ride off into the sunset after an incredibly successful undergraduate career. When my dad picked me and my husband up from the airport, he said "In typical Erik fashion, he doesn't know what the fuss is all about," alluding to how incredible humble my little bro is. Erik has a lot to be proud about, and I won't list all of his accolades here, but that's not what he values most about his life. He values people, his relationships. I wasn't here for more than twenty minutes when a student came up to him and said "Is this your sister?! I've heard so much about you. We have been praying for your paper!".
As you can see, Erik connects people. The most profound reason why he is so admired and loved by his peers is not because of these accolades... It's because he is humble, kind, joyful, considerate, and person-centric. He sees Christ in others because he knows Him well. Erik knows what earthly success is and what other-wordly success is, and he doesn't define himself nor dwell on the former. His attitude is as truthful as it is refreshing, because the search for the ever-fleeting ideal of worldly success commonly chokes and stifles the spiritual life. I share these details about my brother, because his life has been a steadfast and powerful witness to how the Holy Spirit can work in an individual to bring Christ to a large community of people.
As we approach the holy day of Pentecost, I invite us all to approach our Lord with outward-focused spirits, focusing on how we can serve others through a deeper commitment to the Body of Christ in our friends and family. I have been trying to think about why the Holy Spirit is the most difficult Person of the Trinity for me to comprehend, but I think I get closer to understanding when I think about the deep ties I feel in my spirit when I think of my connection with family and close friends. The Holy Spirit, to use really fancy theological terminology, to me, is the stuff of relational closeness, the bond that forms between two individuals, which is why He isn't another body or figure of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit has also been described as a wind or a voice, both signifying connection or movement. The Holy Spirit is the one who fills our hearts with belonging in the presence of Jesus; the Holy Spirit is who fills families with love and belonging, and who helps us understand our own place in the divine family.
We have all heard that phrase "What would Jesus do?" but I think a good question to ask ourselves as well is "What would the Holy Spirit do?", if only to shake our perception of God up a bit, and how to apply that perception to amending our lives. In other words, instead of asking ourselves about how to best imitate the behavior of Christ in certain situations, we might benefit in asking ourselves how we would focus on doing the work of the Holy Spirit, which is always to unite, to build community and hope, to connect man in a deeper relationship with God by inflaming hearts. How can we best tend to the fire, the longing for Christ, in others' hearts? My little brother has a gift for such work, and I'm sure, it's only made possible by his deep faith and prayer life, always asking for the Holy Spirit to inspire him, giving Him room to work and guide his steps.
I will close with a prayer:
Oh Holy Spirit, cleanse our desires.
Create in us hearts of flesh and blood,
And take away our hearts of stone.
Renew in us a steadfast spirit,
We welcome you into our lives.
Change us, oh God.
Change us to be like You,
You who are all loving, all faithful.
Burn away all that is not of You,
So that you may plant and tend to what is good.