We have all had memorable experiences that stick with us long after they occur. These memories make an impact because they impress us with their grandeur, their beauty, or their power. One such image that I remember is the sound and power of Niagara Falls. Driving from Lake Erie to the falls, I was in awe of the size and force of the Niagara River. Viewing the rapids above the falls, I saw the massive cloud of mist that hung over the precipice, reminiscent of the cloud that provided divine guidance during the Exodus. [Exodus 13:21].
Later, I donned a yellow raincoat and took the boat ride near the bottom of the falls to experience firsthand the power of the falling water. The boat pilot remarked to us, “Without a doubt, this is surely the greatest example of unused power in the world.” I remember shaking my head and muttering something like, “Powerful, yes, but not even close to the unused power of the Holy Spirit.”
The power of the Spirit is clearly visible in today’s Gospel. The Christian community, to which John’s message was directed, recognized that the promised Spirit was as important to them as the historical Jesus had been to the disciples. Jesus had been the “way, the truth, and the life,” so the Spirit assumed that same role as “the way, the truth and the life” for the church community. However, this promise given by Jesus came with the obligation to accept the gifts of the Spirit, and then transmit the power of that Spirit into the world. That Spirit working in each of us can unleash the power to dramatically change the world.
Because of the presence of the Spirit, disciples have always had an ever-renewable resource of energy to establish gentleness and kindness in the face of anger and indifference, and promote peace and justice where there would otherwise be violence and hatred. At times the Spirit murmurs and whispers; at other times, the spirit roars and shouts. Jesus intended that the Spirit become our comfort, our companion, our guide, and our challenger in all things. However, the Spirit must be unleashed among us, as it moves, speaks and enlightens us in ways that may be unexpected, unwelcome, or untimely. We can’t become complacent! The Spirit is relying on us to remain aware of his presence and believe that he can make a dramatic difference in the way we choose to live.
When that effort is complete, the world will be drastically changed. To those in the darkness of sin, the Spirit will shine the light of healing and forgiveness. To the poor, the power of the Spirit will erase poverty wherever it exists. What is required is that we connect charity with justice, so that darkness and poverty are short-circuited. Unlike the untapped power of Niagara Falls, the power of the Spirit can harness energy so that poverty, in all its forms, is eliminated. Then by that power, we “live no longer for ourselves but for him…he sent the Holy Spirit from you, Father; as your great gift for those who believe, so that, bringing to perfection his work in the world, he might sanctify creation to the full.” [Eucharistic Prayer 4 slightly adjusted.]
Jesus has promised us the power to permanently enlighten the world, and his power can make it happen. While this power has been available for centuries, it is most effective through the cooperative efforts of many people. The Spirit lives within us! If we truly believe that--- the world can be dramatically changed. “O come Holy Spirit, come! Come as holy light and lead us. Come as holy truth and teach us. Come as holy power and strengthen us.”
~ Deacon Wilson Shierk