The Bishop's Letter - Come Holy Spirit!
|In April this year, Bishop Anthony celebrated his first Easter as Bishop of Parramatta. Photography by Alphonsus Fok and Grace Lu.|
From Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP, Catholic Outlook, May 2010
Something extraordinary happened that first Pentecost Day. A band of confused, inarticulate no-hopers, cowering in a locked room, became a band of jubilant worshippers and public preachers the likes of which had never been seen.
Something filled and inspired them, united and empowered them, to stand up before all the world and proclaim that Christ is risen. It astonished people in those times and it astonishes us still: our word for this thing which happens to people sometimes is: ‘the Holy Spirit’.
We call the first person of God ‘the Father’, ‘Begetter’, ‘Creator’. The second we know as ‘the Son’, ‘the Word’, ‘the Saviour’, ‘Our Lord’. But the third has a veritable litany of names: ‘Holy Spirit’, ‘Light’, ‘Grace’, ‘Consoler’, ‘Counsellor’, ‘Advocate’, ‘Comforter’, ‘Healer’, ‘Renewer’, ‘Inspirer’, ‘Breath of God’, ‘Love of the Father and the Son’, ‘God’s Shalom’ (Peace or Presence) ...
Why does the Spirit have so many names? One reason is that no single name can adequately describe God. The other is that the Spirit comes to so many different kinds of people and changes them, as He did the apostles. There are a variety of gifts, given in particular ways to each Christian.
Often in the Bible the Holy Spirit is soft-spoken, a quiet breath, a light rain. He is God’s breath hovering over the waters at the dawn of creation and breathed into man and woman, giving them life, wisdom, humanity, divinity.
When Jesus appears to His terrified disciples after His Resurrection He recreates them by breathing God’s Spirit upon them again. At Pentecost the Spirit hovers over the Church and falls like a gentle dew from heaven, softening the earth – and the hearts of men – making them fruitful.
So the Holy Spirit, on this account, is gentle, the softening power of God. He enters into situations of anger, anxiety and division, and works reconciliation and peace.
As the Risen Christ pours peace and forgiveness into the hearts of his apostles He calls this calming balm ‘Holy Spirit’. The Spirit enters into troubled situations to quieten and pacify, to pour oil on troubled waters.
So, too, the Spirit enters into troubled hearts, full of anger, frustration and fear, and quietens, tames, reconciles them. In the beautiful Sequence for Pentecost we sing:
Thou of all consolers best,
Thou the soul’s delightful guest,
dost refreshing peace bestow.
Thou in toil art comfort sweet,
pleasant coolness in the heat,
solace in the midst of woe.
Yet this is only one side of the hero of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is not merely a gentle breath but a cyclonic wind, not only light dew but also burning fire.
Here the Holy Spirit is ‘the Lord’, a force to be reckoned with, he impassions, he drives: so that, filled with the Spirit, Christ is driven out into the desert to contend with Satan and his hordes; so that, filled with the Spirit, Peter and the lads are willing to take on the powers who had killed their Lord only 50 days before.
So this gentle, softening power of God is also an energetic, hardening power. He enters into situations of apathy and uncaringness and He stirs up, stimulates, breaks out. He drives disciples not to eiderdowned comfort but to martyrdom; He makes people line up, for or against.
This same Spirit enters into situations and relationships, challenging and invigorating them. He enters into untroubled hearts, self-satisfied, comfortable, weak-willed, stirring them up and goading them to action.
The Holy Spirit of Pentecost comes, then, in many different forms, both strong and weak, loud and quiet, challenging and alluring, heating and cooling, in each case changing people, giving new purpose, direction, character.
He comes in so many different forms because He comes to people who have such different temperaments, relationships, needs, to people who have such varieties of service to do. Whether zephyr or gale our job is to notice Him, open our doors to Him, receive Him humbly as a welcome wind, allow Him to do His work in us.
Each of us needs the Spirit to come in one or perhaps both these ways, to soften our hard hearts and harden our weak wills; to melt away our grudges and vices and all other obstacles to grace and mission; to breathe into us a newer, kinder temper; to come in power to give us renewed strength, hardened resolve, fire in our belly, a willingness to stand up and be counted.
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful in the Diocese of Parramatta, and kindle in us the fire of your love!
View more photos by Alphonsus Fok and Grace Lu in our Media Gallery.
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