As a teenager preparing for the sacrament of confirmation, I often wondered when I would have my “upper room” experience like the one recalled in the first reading for the celebration of Pentecost. I figured that if confirmation is all about the descent of the Holy Spirit into a believer’s life, then that gift should be accompanied by some sort of overwhelming experience in order to reassure the one to be confirmed that the desired gift of the Spirit had indeed been received. And so I prayed and I waited. And then I waited some more. And then I prayed some more and waited even longer. No strong driving wind blew through the house, and I didn’t see any tongues of fire descend upon me. Confused by all this, I decided to seek out the counsel of the wisest people I knew at the time – my parents.
After I explained my predicament to my mother, she assured me that the gifts of the Spirit, promised at Pentecost, would indeed be part of my life. But, as for so many other believers, the experience of the descent of the Spirit into my life would most likely not be earth-shattering for me. Instead, those gifts would be given and used in quiet ways, in the ways of everyday life. Mom assured me that the gifts that enable each of us to accomplish God’s work in our lives are there when we need them – but we have to be willing to ask for them correctly and then put them to use. Like any gift, the Spirit’s gifts are not meant to be hoarded or jealously kept to ourselves – they are meant to be shared, just as they are shared so abundantly by God with each of us.
That made sense to me 30 years ago, and it still makes sense to me today. As I prepare at the end of June to make the transition from pastor of St. Jude in DeWitt to pastor of St. John the Evangelist parish in Fenton, I am aware that some of the Spirit’s gifts which have served me well at St. Jude will still be needed in order for me to serve a people and a place that are new to me. I also realize that this year’s celebration of Pentecost will have a special meaning for me, as I ask for the Spirit’s gifts to help me to meet pastoral challenges that I cannot yet begin to imagine but which will require the Spirit’s wisdom and insight in order to respond to them.
In a way, I can begin to identify more clearly with those first followers of the Risen Christ. In the years ahead, there will be times of great joy and instances of great challenge. There will be new opportunities to grow as a priest and to serve as a pastor. In goodness, God does not let me perceive those coming opportunities in their fullness. If God did, I would likely shrink back in fear. Instead, I see this as an opportunity to trust that God’s abiding presence of the Spirit will accompany me each of the days ahead, sharing with me the gifts I will need in order to serve Christ, and his body, the Church, especially as it is known and lived in Fenton. Come, Holy Spirit!
And so, our journey in FAITH continues.
Father Dwight Ezop is editor of FAITH Magazine and pastor of the Catholic Community of St. Jude. E-mail: editor@FAITHmag.com.