Several days later, my body’s still barking from the home-improvement project I tackled earlier this week. Yes, the time had come once again to stain the deck.
It’s a particular challenge at our place due to the intricately-angled spindles that adorn the rail. The sunburst pattern is handsome to gaze upon, but beastly to coat with a brush—especially when you’re working from the upper rungs of a step-ladder.
You wind up using all kinds of muscle groups that don’t normally get much play—hands, arms, legs, shoulders, lower back. And today, many of those muscles and joints remain sore and stiff…a nagging reminder that my body isn’t as young as it used to be.
But the aches turned into a Pentecost blessing of sorts this morning…as I joined my regular Saturday morning faith-sharing group to break open the readings we’ll hear at Mass on Sunday.
The story from Acts is a familiar one – how the Holy Spirit comes upon the early church, transforming a closed space into something new.
When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled,
they were all in one place together.
And suddenly there came from the sky
a noise like a strong driving wind,
and it filled the entire house in which they were.
Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire,
which parted and came to rest on each one of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in different tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.
The passage from the Gospel of John is similar, with its pointed reference to location:
On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit…
Though I’ve heard these scriptural excerpts many times before, today I was drawn—perhaps by the aches in my bones—to notice the physicality in the episodes: The apostles report sounds…sensations…sights…that they didn’t experience every day.
That’s one of the things we talked about as we were breaking open the Word this morning: How difficult it can be to encounter the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit, by definition, is always there. Always here. Always present. Still, Jesus makes the effort to impart the Spirit through a physical act: He breathes on his friends. It’s as if he’s saying, “Stop a second…and notice this. Feel something new. Feel something—SomeOne—that’s always been there, in a new way.”
We need those reminders, don’t we? We sometimes need a touch…a sensation…an experience…to recall who we are (and whose we are) at our core.
We are, after all, stained by the Holy Spirit—a Presence meant to penetrate our lives…and through our (sometimes-aching) bones, to transform the world.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy One.