As we approach the celebration of Pentecost we pause to consider the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit. The first person of the Trinity is God the Father. Known as the Creator of the universe, he is awesome. And then there is Jesus the Son, the second person of the Trinity. Jesus, by his death and resurrection, paid the price for all the sins of all humankind for all time. That makes Jesus pretty awesome, too. The problem is that sometimes the Father and the Son seem just a little too awesome, a little too big for me to wrap my arms around. What I long for is the God who knows me personally, and that is where God the Holy Spirit makes his entrance.
In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is depicted as a dove, a flame, and as the wind. I can most easily relate to the Holy Spirit by envisioning him as the wind (Acts 2:1-2). “On the day of Pentecost all the Lord’s followers were together in one place. Suddenly there was a noise from heaven like the sound of a mighty wind! It filled the house where they were meeting.” I can relate to the wind because my husband, John, taught me how to windsurf back when we were dating. If there was a mighty wind when we got off work in the evening, we would race to the lake of our northern Wisconsin childhoods, hurriedly attach our sails to our boards, and zip through white-capped waters until the wind died down with the fading sunlight. On windless summer evenings we’d rush to the same lake and water ski or sometimes canoe with the loons through glassy calm waters. On any given evening, it was the wind that told us what to do with our free time together.
Have you ever paused to listen to the wind? If you have a kite, a mighty wind might tell you to head to an open field. A calmer current of air might tell you to wait for another day. If you have a sailboat, a mighty wind might beckon you to lash everything to the deck and head to the open sea. A gentle breeze might tell you to bring a grill on board and enjoy a tranquil, sunset meal.
While learning how to windsurf, I spent a lot of time doing headlong somersaults into the water. John, who had learned earlier and more quickly, spent a lot of time sailing patient circles around me. Learning to sense and to align ourselves with the movement of the Holy Spirit is a similarly personal journey, but it is one that scripture invites each of us to take. Every day the same scripture readings are proclaimed in every Catholic church throughout the world. I envision those readings as a wind emanating from the pulpit and blowing across the congregation. When we are told by Jesus to forgive seventy times seven, it is like a mighty wind. The strength of that particular scripture should cause each of us to grab our hats and hang onto our pews, as the Holy Spirit reveals, specifically, to whom we need to offer forgiveness. At another Mass we may hear the comforting message that Jesus heals the broken hearted. These words arrive like a gentle breeze easing open the door of personal healing for wounds we’ve hidden deep within. It is according to each person’s situation in life that the same wind delivers a different message.
John 3:8 proclaims, “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” To receive God’s personal direction for our lives, we must be keep watch for the wind that is the Holy Spirit. If we will but turn our faces toward that spirit-filled wind, we will know whether to raise or lower our sails, to fly our kites or paddle our canoes. We will feel the touch of the Holy Spirit and know that, no matter how awesome or big He is, our Triune God knows and loves each of us personally.