Holy Spirit come and fill this place
Bring us healing with your warm embrace
Show Your power make your presence known
Holy Spirit come fill this place
Holy Spirit come fill this place
This song by CeCe Winans helps me to remember that the Holy Spirit is already here with us; we just have to call on the Spirit’s presence as the disciples did in our first reading for Pentecost.
We see in the Acts of the Apostles, the disciples were gathered together, and as the Holy Spirit came to them in wind and fire, they began to speak different languages. The many people gathered in Jerusalem at first were confused, but then understood the messages that the disciples conveyed about works of God.
Have you ever been in a situation where you did not speak the language of those around you? I actually grew up with grandparents and a great-aunt who spoke very limited English. My Dad was from Louisiana, and he and his parents spoke Louisiana Creole. My Grandmother never wanted me to learn Creole, so she would put her hands over my ears when she spoke to my Dad. Like the people in Jerusalem, I was confused, but the Holy Spirit helped me to understand my grandmother’s language, and that is the language of love.
She taught me to sew and cook, and she also taught me how to be gracious in the midst of a challenge. This was the 1960s, and although there were no Jim Crow Laws in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, there were some white people who felt challenged by people of color and made their discomfort known. My Grandmother and I frequented the many white-owned fabric stores of South Philadelphia, and to say that she was merciful to the merchants is an understatement. I acted as a pseudo translator, and although my Grandmother may not have understood the merchant, she certainly understood his or her tone of voice. I would get annoyed and my grandmother would grab my hand and give me a look. We would eventually make our purchases. As we would leave some stores, my Grandmother would say to me, “Souviens-toi!” -- remember! I don’t know if the "remember" was for me or the store, but I knew I needed to “check myself” the next time I responded when speaking to the storekeeper! She never said an angry word, she walked on, peaceful as ever.
Isn’t that how the Spirit is with us? It is all about love. Jesus says in John Chapter 14, the Gospel, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Jesus is clear about those Commandments-- love God and love your neighbor. How much room do we leave for the Spirit’s love and for our response? We all possess those gifts we were given at Baptism-- those seven gifts of the Holy Spirit that were strengthened at our Confirmation. But how often do we call on them?
I believe that every day, we encounter the Holy Spirit. In these and in so many other situations, we have the opportunity to put those gifts into action. Our class was frequently reminded by my Seventh Grade teacher, Sister St. Ignatius, that the Gifts of the Holy Spirit are always present to us. But like any gift or present, we need to unwrap them in order to use them! Today, with violence against Christians as well as our Jewish and Muslim neighbors, we need to call on the Spirit more than ever! I especially call on the gift of courage in these days to help me to respond. In one of his daily Easter homilies, Pope Francis says “Let us ask the Lord” to give us this awareness that we cannot be Christians without walking with the Holy Spirit, without acting with the Holy Spirit, without letting the Holy Spirit be the protagonist of our lives”. Let us be bold and speak out-- let us be like those disciples of the early Church and proclaim the Good News of Jesus. You and I may be surprised-- the same Spirit that urged Jesus to pray and fast in the desert for forty days, the same Spirit that enabled him to heal the sick, the same Spirit that forgave his executioners is present in you. Let us put our words into action, too--let us care for our brothers and sisters with love and pray: Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth! Happy Pentecost!
Boreta A. Singleton
Boreta A. Singleton, a native of Philadelphia, PA, is an African American ‘cradle Catholic.’ She taught in Catholic elementary and middle schools there and was the Director of the Office for Black Catholics for four years. She has worked for Jesuit-sponsored schools for the past seventeen years, first at St. Aloysius in Harlem, and now at St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City, NJ, where she is the Director of Faculty Formation. She holds an MA in Theology from University of Notre Dame, an MS in Pastoral Care and Counseling from Neumann University and will graduate with a Certificate in Spiritual Direction from Fairfield University on Pentecost Day, 2019.
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