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Deacon-structing: The Spirit of Peace 2

June 8, 2014
Part two of a reflection for the Solemnity of Pentecost. The readings are Acts 2:1-11; Psalm 103; Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13 and John 20: 19-23. Read part one here.
My first experience with the Holy Spirit was when I was about 12 years old. A new associate pastor arrived at our parish in Panama that year. He was a newly ordained, young priest. He saw that there was no youth group and decided to start one. So he invited all the youth of the parish to go with him on a weekend retreat. So my mother packed her three kids and sent us along. I don’t remember much of the retreat, but I remember the first night fairly clearly. We were all in the small chapel, standing around the Blessed Sacrament praying. And there were people speaking in tongues, people crying and people singing in tongues – people falling over... I must say, a very strange scene for a 12-year old boy. But we were all young – I was probably one of the youngest, but most were between 15 and 20 years old. But I don’t remember thinking that it was strange. In fact, I remember that it was the most beautiful scene in the world. It was as if we had experienced a little bit of heaven here on earth. Since then I’ve had a very good relationship with the Holy Spirit.
But, most of us have never had experiences with the Holy Spirit like the one I had. However, we’ve all received the Holy Spirit. If you’ve been baptised, you’ve received the Holy Spirit. If you’ve ever gone to Confession, you’ve received the Holy Spirit. If you’ve been Confirmed, you’ve received the Holy Spirit – because we receive the Holy Spirit with each Sacrament. When I got married, my wife and I both received the Holy Spirit. When we baptised our two boys, they received the Holy Spirit and so did we.
But we don’t usually feel anything when we receive the Holy Spirit. When I was ordained to the Permanent Diaconate, the bishop prayed for the Holy Spirit to descend upon the candidates... and I felt... absolutely nothing. But that doesn’t mean that we didn’t receive the Holy Spirit.
While I was in Theatre School at York University, we learned two basic acting techniques: The first is what is called “method acting”. This is when you try to feel something before you say or do what you have to say or do. For example, if my character has to scream in anger, first I have to feel angry. Once I feel the anger, I can yell, “I’m angry!” The other technique is completely the opposite. You don’t have to feel anything, simply yell, at the top of your lungs, “I’m angry!” and I bet that after a while you’ll begin to feel angry.
I think it’s the same with the Spirit.
If you don’t feel the Spirit, it doesn’t matter. Act as if you have the Spirit. If you don’t feel like you have joy or love; if you don’t feel patience, humility, courage or strength or any of the gifts or fruits of the Spirit, no worries, just behave as if you have them. Behave as if you have all the gifts and fruits of the Spirit: Act with honesty, goodness, and modesty and I bet that soon enough you’ll be able to feel the Spirit.
One of the first prayers I learned as a kid is one that I’m sure many of you know:
“Come Holy Spirit; fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created and thou shalt renew the face of the earth.”
Christ gives us the Holy Spirit so that we have peace – so that we have the strength to renew the face of the earth. We don’t receive the Holy Spirit so that we can keep it to ourselves, so we can feel peaceful and comfortable. No. We receive the Holy Spirit so that we can help Christ transform the earth. So we can act!
At Mass today (and at every Mass), just before the Words of Institution, the priests will ask the Holy Spirit to descend upon the gifts of bread and wine so that they become the body and blood of Jesus. It’s the Holy Spirit that makes the Sacrament possible. It’s the Holy Spirit that makes the transformation possible. And at the moment of Communion, when we receive Christ in the Eucharist, we receive the Holy Spirit. Don’t forget this. And what do we do just before Communion? We offer one another the sign of peace.
The sign of peace is not just a nice gesture; it is giving peace to one another. This is what Jesus does with the Apostles. So don’t be shy when giving peace to each other. Look at each other in the eyes and say it nice and loud (even though you may not feel it), “peace be with you.” And while you say it, think “don’t be afraid.” When we give each other peace we receive the peace of Christ and then we can be ready to receive the Eucharist. (Perhaps it's no coincidence that Pope Francis today, on the Feast of Pentecost, the feast of the Holy Spirit, is praying with Israeli and Palestinians leaders for peace.)
And when Mass is over, the deacon will say, “Go in peace, alleluia, alleluia” and you will respond, “Thanks be to God, alleluia, alleluia.” Don’t just say it. Say it like you mean it. Now that you have the peace of Christ, now that you have the Spirit of Christ; let’s act like it and go and renew the face of the earth!
“Come Holy Spirit; fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created and thou shalt renew the face of the earth.”
Photo credit: People exchange a sign of peace during Christmas Eve Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Dec. 24 in Washington. (CNS photo/Daniel Sone)

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